Clive Owen is a lucky man. Not only is today his 50th birthday, but he’s been given the gift of double first names, like Elton John, Ben Elton, and Daniel Craig.
He is also blessed with a first name that has never really caught on in America. The record company mangnate Clive Davis may disagree, but the overwhelming majority of famous Clives either come from Britain, or former British colonies which still carry a strong British influence.
And the Clives are by no means alone in this. Here are 10 names that have far stronger roots on one side of the Atlantic than the other (apart from the ones we’ve talked about before, like Alastair. And no, we’re not including Benedict because he’s fairly well represented elsewhere).
Pronounced sinjin, this is probably more common as a middle name than a first name and exists primarily among the upper classes.
Originally an imported name from France, Hugh arrived with the Normans and settled particularly strongly among the Welsh, who also spell it Huw.
Another name with very strong Welsh roots, Gareth was the name of Sir Gawain’s brother and fellow knight in Thomas Malory’s collection of Arthurian legends Le Morte d’Arthur.
This is a tough one to say, even if you know it’s not pronounced “men-zeez.” The BBC Pronunciation Unit is clear that while this is pronounced “MING-iss,” the g is soft, as in singer, not hard, as in linger.
Just the most drearily English name it’s possible to imagine. When Spinal Tap wanted to create the name of a British guitar hero, they modelled their Nigel Tufnel on Eric Clapton, who has a mundane first name and a surname that is also a district in London.
You don’t want to import this name to America. It’s fawlty.
One of the most popular names in the U.K. right now, thanks in no small part to Michael Caine and his film and character of the same name. Clearly the alien comedy Alf left a more damaging legacy for the name in America.
It’s already been Anglicized from the Scots Eoghan, and there are at least two famous British actors that have it as their first name—Mr Macgregor and Mr Bremner take a bow—and they were even in Trainspotting together. And while Owen remains popular on both sides of the Atlantic, Ewans are much fewer and farther between.
The very opposite of Alfie. A name which suggests a certain privilege and feyness, and breeding. Most Ruperts are not square-jawed action heroes, being cut from a more Oscar Wilde, fancy-book-reading cloth. Look at Rupert Everett. Even though he is square-jawed and muscular in the action hero style, he remains the Rupertiest Rupert that ever there was.
Curiously, there was quite a peak of Murray-ing in America at the turn of the 20th Century, but the name has slipped so far from common use. And in England and Wales it’s less common than haggis butties. But you don’t have to look to far to find a Murray in Scotland. And there’s Andy Murray, and Murray Mints are a popular butterscotch/mint sweet, so we’re probably due a less localized revival soon.