Posts Tagged ‘English names’

As promised I’m back with the second half of my quirky names series. I will admit I had a more difficult time compiling a list of unusual male British names. The traditional ones like James, John, Tom, Robert, Steve, etc. are still popular on both sides of the pond. Not unknown in the States, but heard less often, are names such as Martin, Simon, Hugh and the even more rare, Clive.

Below are five of the most distinctly British names I could brainstorm. As with the ladies segment earlier, if you can come up with a better, more characteristic example, please share in the comments section at the end of the post.

Benedict Cumberbatch

As far as I’ve been able to ascertain, this is indeed the Sherlock actor’s given name. In fact his father and fellow actor, Timothy Carlton, doesn’t even use the family surname in his professional life so I think young Ben took a calculated risk when he retained this unusual moniker.  The formality of “Benedict”and the whimsical quality of  “Cumberbatch” sets this actor up as a classic British character. Besides the iconic Mr. Holmes, Benedict has also portrayed illustrious Brits such as Stephen Hawking and Prime Minister William Pitt. Whether a choice of family loyalty or a dodgy gamble, judging by the trajectory of his career, Mr. Cumberbatch made the right decision.

Benedict as Sherlock image credit BBC

Benedict as Sherlock
image credit Hartswood Films


Rupert Grint

While almost any character in Harry Potter’s world could have made this list (Neville Longbottom, Barty Crouch, or Dudley Dursley for example), Rupert Grint is one of the few actors whose name fit right in with the quaint characters in the films. Rupert is common enough in the UK, but few and far between in America. And Grint, well it sounds as though it’s right out of Roald Dahl story.

Rupert Grint as Ron Weasly  image credit Heyday Films

Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley
image credit Heyday Films


Noel Fielding

It might seem odd that the French word for Christmas has become a male British name.   However, with the change in pronunciation from the French (No-el) to something more like Noll, the English have made in their own and Noel Fielding is, in my opinion, a prime example of the country’s renowned eccentricity.  From the Mighty Boosh and The IT Crowd to his self-titled Luxury Comedy sketch show, Mr. Fielding’s whole being screams that he’s an artsy, mod goth with a totally off-the-wall way of looking at the world and he doesn’t care who knows it. What could be more British than that?

Team captain Noel Fielding on NMTB Image Credit BBC

Never Mind the Buzzcock’s team captain Noel Fielding 
Image Credit BBC


Julian Rhind-Tutt

I chose Mr. Rhind-Tutt as a representative for all those Brits with hyphenated last names which we Yanks have been trained to associate with money and breeding. Although from what I’ve read in the past, aristocratic blood doesn’t run in his veins.  Julian’s  parents just did what a number enlightened couples do when they marry; they combined surnames. Still sounds classy though, right? Rhind-Tutt has portrayed a few posh blue bloods in his career in Blandings and The Lady Vanishes for starters. He’s also played a number of coppers and doctors, the most famous being Dr. Macartney in Green Wing.

Julian Rhind-Tutt

Julian as Angus McCain in The Hour image credit Kudos Film and Television


Ralph Fiennes

Ralph (pronounced Rafe) Nathaniel Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, to be exact. And according to Wikipedia, this talented gentleman is, in fact, a gentleman, reportedly an eighth cousin to Prince Charles. I had a neighbor named Ralph and we called him “Ralf”. To be honest, when I first heard this actor’s name spoken I thought he was Ray Fines. Regardless of spelling or pronunciation, Mr. Fiennes is a grand example of the British acting profession. He’s conquered Shakespeare, Dickens, and more recently the Bond franchise among other roles. He’s THE Voldemort for God’s sake! Never mind that most of us became acquainted with him as the most horrible Nazi on film ever!

Ralph Fiennes

Fiennes as Charles Dickens in The Invisible Woman image credit BBC Films



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I’ve always been fascinated by names – the tradition of generations, the culturally identifying aspects, the expression of what parents hope their children will be and sometimes the apparent whimsy of it all.

Take me for example – my name is Carmen despite the fact that I have not a drop of Latina blood in me. This has been a source of stereotyping and ethnic confusion numerous times in my life. People jokingly refer to me as Carmen Miranda or Carmen Sandiego. Others have been introduced to me and immediately started speaking Spanish.  Unfortunately no hablo Espanol. Therefore, I’m required from time to time to explain why I have such an authentically Spanish name with no cultural connection to to it.

Ostensibly, my mother just liked the name. Boring story I know, but there it is.

I’ve thought about it many times over the years; if I wanted to change my name which one would I choose? The genealogy that has been done on my family so far has identified a distinctly English lineage and, considering my interests and sensibilities, what else would suit anyhow?

In my extensive experience watching telly and films, it’s unavoidable to come across some characteristically English monikers. In the golden age of Hollywood, actors and actresses were encouraged to change their names if they were foreign sounding or didn’t fit the performers image (the slightly dowdy Norma Jean Mortenson became the seductive Marilyn Monroe, for example). I’m happy to see that these days actors are more likely to stick with their given names which might honor familial ancestors or reflect  their national identities.

Therefore, I’ve gathered some notable British examples together for your enjoyment, amusement and consideration –  just in case I ever decide to write under a distinctly English pseudonym in future…


Tuppence Middleton

Let’s break this down. This woman was named after a denomination of pre-decimal British coinage. Her surname is shared with the family of the current Duchess of Cambridge. She’s pictured below as Iris Carr, the protagonist of a classic British story, The Lady Vanishes. She looks the very picture of a 1930’s English socialite in distress. She is “twee” personified, if I correctly understand the term.

Tuppence Middleton

The Lady Vanishes BBC


Imogen Poots

Okay, if you giggled a bit upon reading this name, I don’t blame you. Get it out and we’ll move on. The first name (pronounced Em-a-gin) has a vintage sound and is one we don’t hear round these parts. Then there’s the quite unfortunate onomatopoeic surname which I can’t help but associate with flatulence.   But don’t feel sorry for Miss Poots. Hollywood has come calling despite her rather eccentric moniker. She’s appeared in Fright Night, That Awkward Moment, and Need for Speed.

A Long Way Down BBC Films

A Long Way Down
BBC Films


Rosamund Pike

In the States we have Rosemarys and Roseannes but precious few Rosamunds. Royal mistresses and Regency period gentlewomen are evoked by the name and not surprisingly Ms. Pike has played an Austen character, Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Her name alone elicits the image of the proverbial English Rose.

An Education BBC Films

An Education
BBC Films


Jemima Rooper

Jemima, on the other hand has the feel of a plucky, slightly less demure disposition, which is the way I would describe some of Ms. Rooper’s characters in Hex, Lost in Austen and Atlantis.  I can only imagine that if you have the name Jemima in England you must endure the taunts of people calling you Puddle Duck. From my very sparse research this name, while almost nonexistent in the US, is in the top 200 in the UK and came to popularity in the Puritan period.

Lost in Austen Mammoth Screen/ITV

Lost in Austen
Mammoth Screen/ITV


Hermione Norris

Thanks to J.K. Rowling, Hermione might be a familiar name to Americans, but only the most devoted Harry Potter fanatics are probably naming their children after “the brightest witch of her age.” Hermione Norris tends to play smart, career oriented women (Cold Feet, Wire in the Blood, and Spooks) as well. The name comes across a bit public school, but its Greek mythological and Shakespearean connections give it historical gravitas.


MI-5 (Spooks) Kudos and BBC

MI-5 (Spooks)
Kudos and BBC


It’s your turn to chime in. What’s the consummate female English name, celebrity or otherwise?  Also, stay tuned for my top five English actors’ names. I bet you can guess one of them already…



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