Sunday, December 23, 2007

What's in a name?

The media feeding frenzy surrounding the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in Portugal back in May has been one of the most notable and depressing developments of the year.

Sections of British press have demonstrated once again that there really are no depths of innuendo, slur and sensationalism to which they will not stoop in pursuit of a sale; an appalling personal tragedy has been turned into a soap opera with endlessly revolving story lines. All this, of course, fuelled by the Great British Public™ and its insatiable appetite for lurid gossip (if rubbernecking were an Olympic sport, we'd be guaranteed a gold medal every time).

Anyhow, here's a thing: the ONS has just published its annual list of the top names for babies in England and Wales, and Madeleine, which has been hovering around 70th position for the past five years, has now slipped down to 80th.

Given that Madeleine McCann's disappearance came halfway through the year, the real drop is probably even greater than the result for 2007 suggests. The 'Maddy' factor has definitely had a marked impact on its popularity.


John Doe said...

Interesting. My reflex thought was surprise that it didn't go up in the rankings. The sympathy vote and all that. But then I guess the press put paid to that.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I agree with you that the media coverage has been appalling, sensationalising a tragedy at every opportunity. Interesting about the names list - I guess people are still superstitious. What seems to be forgotten in all this is the plight of the poor little girl, wherever she is.

It seems inappropriate here but I do want to wish you the happiest Xmas possible, DD.

Deadbeat Dad said...

Hi, JD. When it first occurred to me a couple of months back to keep a look out for this, my expectation was that it would shoot up the rankings; but then I began to have second thoughts. In the end, I wasn't too surprised by the result.

Welshcakes, a colleague of mine reads the Daily Express (<hawk, spit>), and every day when I go into work I look over to him and raise my eyebrows, and he'll either laugh or shake his head (according to whether Madeleine is the lead front page story). I can count on the fingers of both hands the number of times over the past six months when it hasn't been.

Incidentally, I met an Express journalist (a leader writer, no less) at the launch of Ann Widdecombe's novel Father Figure three years ago, and we got on like a house on fire: she confounded every expectation I had of a scribbler on such a xenophobic, right-wing rag. Totally baffling.

And thanks for your kind thoughts, Welshcakes. This is certainly the hardest time (as JD will testify), because Christmas is all about children and the promise of innocence. At least I know my daughter is alive and well (I trust she is, anyway); unlike the McCanns and other parents in their situation, whose suffering at this time must be truly unimaginable.

And at least I won't go down to alchoholic poisoning (a serious threat this time last year): I shall be cooking this evening at my local pub in Clifton village, where I work part-time as a chef on top of the day job (its therapy, and they pay me to do it). Tomorrow? I'll deal with that when it comes.

Wishing you and Simi a very Happy Christmas too.