The top of the new English baby name charts has a traditional look. It's stocked with regal classics like royal kids George and Charlotte, plus cuddly English favorites like Poppy and Archie.
If you want to see where name trends are headed, though, you have to look past the top-10 list. The fastest-rising names of the year in England and Wales point in directions both old and new. Check out the top risers and top new debuts of the year:
ENGLAND'S HOTTEST RISING NAMES OF 2016
Together, these name show off a combination of global and local style. Kylo, for instance, was also the fastest-rising boy's name in the United States courtesy of a Star Wars film. (It's also a great illustration of how modern celebrity names are about style, NOT homages. Read more about the Kylo phenomenon.) Adaline, similarly, was America's movie-inspired top riser of 2015.
But Jorgie? Reggie? Louie? Those nicknames are pure Brit-cute style. Even the girls' name Paisley, which was already a Western-styled U.S. hit (a la country singer Brad Paisley) follows the Poppy-like cute model. Other names that appeal to the same American parents as Paisley but lack that sweet style, like Raelynn and Hadley, remain unknown in England.
One more trend to watch is the rise of "high Scrabble value" letters in names like Ezra and Jaxon. Additional hot X & Z names include the word names Zion and Fox and the more traditional names Beatrix and Rex.
Looking at new names that didn't appear at all in last year's stats, the hottest are inspired by different corners of popular culture.
#1 Boys' Debut: Kion, the royal lion son in the Disney animated series The Lion Guard
#2 Boys' Debut: Jolan, a one-named singer who appeared on the singing competition The Voice UK
#1 Girls' Debut: Rey, the heroine of the film Star Wars: The Force Awakens
#2 Girls' Debut: Hollie-May, popular English model Hollie-May Saker
Once again, some of the names and cultural references will be familiar to audiences around the world, while some are uniquely home-grown. Hollie-May in particular is as English a name as you'll find today. The hyphenated style is much more popular there than in the rest of the English-speaking world, and NO name ending in May is hot in the United States.
The top baby names in England and Wales have just been announced, and they're...olive.
The #1 boy's name: Oliver
The #1 girl's name: Olivia
If that repetition isn't enough to give you a sense of déjà vu, we actually have seen this before. The Olives last reigned as England's baby name king and queen in 2010, and at least one of them has held a #1 slot for 7 of the past 9 years. There's no question, this is England's Olive Age.
Both names have been shaped by literature. Oliver arrived with the Norman Conquest in the French form Olivier, which in turn came from an older Germanic name like Alfarr. It was common until Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell knocked it out of style for two centuries. When Charles Dickens named his orphan boy Oliver Twist, he was choosing an unusual, old-fashioned name. Then Oliver Twist itself brought the name back into fashion.
Olivia was introduced by Shakespeare in Twelfth Night. He might have just been creating a female Oliver, but the Bard often drew on Latin sources to build names like Miranda ("admirable"). Many believe that Olivia is a romantic elaboration of the name or word oliva, which is Latin for Olive. Olivia's lyrical style and literary heritage make it feel timeless, though it has only been popular in the past generation.
In the U.S. the two names have very different styles. Olivia is a popular powerhouse, pretty and mainstream. Oliver, while increasingly fashionable, remains a "quirky classic" with a slightly offbeat style. In England, though, they're both baby name royalty.
The rest of the England and Wales top 20:
Also be sure to check out the trends and fast risers: England's Hottest and Newest Baby Names
Tennis star Serena Williams and her fiancé, internet entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian, recently welcomed their first child: Alexis Ohanian Jr. That seemingly ultra-conservative name choice was anything but, because the newborn Alexis is a girl.
A female "Junior" turns tradition on its head, transforming a classic patriarchial symbol into a more complex and dramatic statement. Namesakes have always been a masculine realm. There is no female equivalent to Junior; surnames are traditionally inherited from the father; male names frequently have feminine versions (Daniel --> Danielle, Daniela, Dani) but not vice versa. Men's naming lineage is the lineage that tradition values and preserves across generations.
Within a family, this can make for some naming inequality—not just between mom and dad, but between sister and brother. I've always suggested that parents who intend to name their first son a Junior also choose names of special family significance for their daughters, so as not to suggest that a boy is valued more as the sole heir to family heritage. Williams and Ohanian have taken a more direct approach. The name Alexis is already used for both boys and girls. Why not use Junior the same way?
Serena Williams and Baby Alexis. Image via Serenawilliams/Instagram
[Name nerd fine print: Young Alexis doesn't have exactly the same name as her dad. He is Alexis Kerry Ohanian, she is Alexis Olympia Ohanian. Sticklers may say that, more than her sex, bars her from being a Junior. Custom does expect names to match 100% for Junior status, but it's a custom many parents flout. Besides, when it comes to a female Junior, tradition offers little guidance.]
On one hand, this seems like a powerful move toward equality. By making their daughter a Junior, the parents are saying that she is every bit as much her father's heir as a boy would be. It's also worth noting that our society would traditionally declare the baby, as the child of a black mother and white father, to be separate in race from her dad. Calling her Alexis Jr. is a subtle blow against that kind of artificial division as well.
On the other hand, you can't get around the fact that the baby is named after her father, not her mother. That's particularly notable in a family where the mom is a living symbol of power. Serena Williams is a towering figure: one of the world's all-time greatest athletes, powerful in fame, physique, wealth and influence. Yet like countless generations of children before her, her daughter follows the male naming lineage.
Want to see how sex-skewed our naming culture remains? Try to picture a son named Serena Williams, Jr. That's the real threshold our society isn't close to crossing. We see more and more unisex names, but as I've written before, "'androgyny' in baby names is a one-way street, heading off toward the masculine horizon."
For now, though, a female Junior does represent a bold egalitarian statement. This famous example is likely to open up one more path for other parents navigating the delicate byways of names, gender and family traditions. Cute kid, too.