The Great Nigel Forage
October 4, 2019 12:03 PM   Subscribe

When he heard that no babies born in Britain in 2016 were named Nigel, Nigel Smith began to fret that the people with whom he shared a first name were a "dying breed." ... Instead of going into mourning, however, he decided to have some fun with it. He owns the Fleece Inn, near Worcestershire, so he organized "Nigel Night" at the pub.
posted by Etrigan (31 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
He was only making plans for Nigel?
posted by LizardBreath at 12:04 PM on October 4, 2019 [53 favorites]

Well, at least it wasn't an Adolf or Quisling Night. That would have a pretty quiet night out for all involved, I imagine.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 12:06 PM on October 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nigel Forage

You magnificent bastard
posted by ominous_paws at 12:14 PM on October 4, 2019 [34 favorites]

A friend’s cat (in London) is named Nigel (a name he had when adopted from the rescue centre). He’s a friendly, agreeable ginger catloaf with a loud purr.
posted by acb at 12:16 PM on October 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

Nigel 433 Friends, thank you very much.
posted by zamboni at 12:28 PM on October 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

For a while this ugly American kept mixing up Noel Fielding and Nigel Farage because they both have names that start with N F. So confusing!
posted by bq at 12:36 PM on October 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure that I've never met a Nigel. It's one of those names I associate only with British TV.
posted by octothorpe at 12:50 PM on October 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

All attending Nigels, ranging in age from seven months to 80 years old, were verified with an ID check, and handed a badge with their name on it. Other attendees were issued badges that read "Not Nigel" on them.

Fuck, I miss my country at times. That's brilliant.
posted by Brockles at 1:02 PM on October 4, 2019 [22 favorites]

Years ago I was playing around with a name explorer Java applet that charted names given by year. One of the most striking ones was "Bart" (and perhaps also "Bartholomew"). It plummeted to basically zero when the Simpsons came out.

Maybe something similar is going on here relating to the politician alluded to in the FPP title?
posted by sjswitzer at 1:09 PM on October 4, 2019

Um, that's pretty much the concluding thought in TFA. My bad.
posted by sjswitzer at 1:11 PM on October 4, 2019

Because it's Friday night and I have nothing better to do, I downloaded the official datasets of baby names, and it does look as though the complete absence of Nigels in 2016 was a statistical blip:

2005: 33
2006: 27
2007: 28
2008: 24
2009: 16
2010: 18
2011: 14
2012: 15
2013: 8
2014: 10
2015: 9
2016: 0
2017: 11
2018: 8

The real story here is the enormous popularity of the name in the 1960s and its rapid decline thereafter. In 1963 there were 5529 Nigels. In 1964 it was the 23rd most popular boys' name. A decade later it wasn't even in the top 100. So if you meet a Nigel today, chances are he's in his fifties.

(For anyone wanting to play with the data, there are some nifty visualisations here (for England and Wales) and here (for Scotland). The decline of Nigel is the same in Scotland, even though it was Sir Walter Scott who first popularised the name.)
posted by verstegan at 1:12 PM on October 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

The photo of the taps accompanying the article includes one pouring "Nige Ale."

Well played.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:06 PM on October 4, 2019 [9 favorites]

In the grand scheme of things 19 kids in 2 years might as well be none. Still though gotta wonder about those 19 parents. Maybe it's a family name.
posted by bleep at 2:17 PM on October 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Next I suppose we'll learn the French are no longer naming their children Gilles.
posted by sjswitzer at 2:21 PM on October 4, 2019

The real story here is the enormous popularity of the name in the 1960s and its rapid decline thereafter.

That's interesting. When XTC sang "We're Only Making Plans for Nigel" in 1979, the name in the title implied that Nigel was a boy, so the planners were the adults in his family. (Or it's a bigger metaphor for Society/the State slotting young people into roles "for their own good"...)

If it had been called "We're Only Making Plans for Arthur", it would mean they're going to put him in an old folks' home, I guess?
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 2:36 PM on October 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

I wish we had datasets for the rise and fall of the name "Benedict" in the US before and after the Revolution. But maybe the popularity of Cumberbatch will revive that name here as the association of that name with "infamous traitor" might dim. It's been over 200 years, after all...
posted by acidnova at 2:38 PM on October 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Given the fondness for biblical-sounding Hebrew names, they could always go with the Hebrew cognate of benedict, Baruch (as per the philosopher and Jewish-Christian convert Spinoza).
posted by acb at 2:53 PM on October 4, 2019

The only Nigel I know is Nigel Thornberry.
posted by batter_my_heart at 3:11 PM on October 4, 2019

oh—must be Nigel with the brie!
posted by sallybrown at 4:36 PM on October 4, 2019

I think Nigel was going out of fashion as a name well before Mr Farage appeared on the scene. I am 66, and when I was six years old, there were three Nigels in my primary school class. Which, considering that there were only 16 kids in the whole class and 7 of them were girls argues for the name being pretty popular. I have never met a Nigel of any age since. Was there some famous Nigel in the early 50s? I certainly can't think of one.
posted by Fuchsoid at 5:22 PM on October 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think my only IRL Nigel was a computing teacher called Mr (Nigel) Webb, which nominative prefiguration must have been hilarious to his later students once the whole WWW thing happened.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 5:34 PM on October 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

My mother and I met Nigel Nicolson (son of Vita Sackville-West) at a book signing. While inscribing his book to my mother, he said, “Verna. What an odd name.” She replied, “Nigel. What an odd name.”
posted by elphaba at 5:49 PM on October 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

not my Nigel
posted by clew at 6:30 PM on October 4, 2019

One of the coolest twenty-somethings I’ve met in the past few years is a Nigel. Nose ring, great hair, Canadian, genuinely pleasant.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:26 PM on October 4, 2019

Reminds me of the Hugo & Nebula nominated And then there were No Minus One by Sarah Pinsker or Katie Conf, a celebration of Katie's in tech (no matter how they spell their names). There was also briefly a fad for pranking Facebook messenger by creating groups of everyone with the same name.
posted by autopilot at 10:37 PM on October 4, 2019

I'm one of those mid-60's Nigel's, it didn't seem common in southern UK (Portsmouth) in my cohort - my highschool year had 2 out of maybe 300, but in southern NZ it's very common like rash or virus, although we most are flavours of English born, mostly UK northerners.

I don't like rare names, makes one stand out (even more), give me summat dead common like Steve or Dave any day.
posted by unearthed at 12:36 AM on October 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

The presenter of the podcast Ear Hustle is an (American) woman called Nigel, and the first time she mentioned her name I had to rewind twice to check I had heard it right. I know it’s a common process for male names to become female names, but for some reason I found it particularly bizarre.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 9:18 AM on October 5, 2019

That could be an interesting test case on how much sway toxic patriarchy holds over culture; most male names which become female names (i.e., Lesley, Ashley) cease being acceptable male names because cooties or something. If, in 10-20 years' time, parents are reluctant to name a boy Nigel because he'll be teased for having a girl's name, we know that things haven't improved.
posted by acb at 10:34 AM on October 5, 2019

The Fleece, by the way, is a great pub, which does a lot of folk music, good beer, and good food. It is normally entirely safe for people with normal names.
posted by alloneword at 1:34 PM on October 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

Lest we forget Nigel Tufnel.
posted by sugar and confetti at 6:46 AM on October 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

LizardBreath: "He was only making plans for Nigel?"

I knew I would find this joke, but kudos on doing it in the first comment, one minute after the FPP.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:19 PM on October 7, 2019

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