Imagine your parents were cruel enough to give you silly names, so that you were called Constance Smell, Anice Bottom, Seymour Bust, Boadicea Basher or Norman Conquest. Imagine the embarassement when you have to tell somebody your name, or the bullying and name-calling inflicted on you by your school chums.

Well, Renee Jackaman, an archivist at the Cornwall Record Office, has produced a list of real people who were given embarassing names.

The Daily Mail's Russell Ash has also done his own research to discover as many British people as possible throughout the ages who were given daft names.

He hopes his new book, which is like something from a Carry On movie - " Potty, Fartwell And Knob" - on the subject would appeal to the quirky sense of humour of the British, who seem to revel in jokes involving rude words.

He also lists some of his favourite silly names given to real British people over the centuries, which is guaranteed to raise a chuckle if you take a look...

Lumbered with a boring name? Thank your lucky stars you weren't born with one of these: Anice Bottom, Kitty Litter, or Golden Balls

By Russell Ash (external - login to view)
25th March 2009
Daily Mail

Constance Smell? No, I'd rather Seymour Bust

Renee Jackaman is not an especially silly name. But it is her dedicated research that got the ball rolling.

In 2005, Jackaman, an archivist at the Cornwall Record Office, produced a silly names list, gleaned from her files, which included such names as Philadelphia Bunnyface, Boadicea Basher and Ostrich Pockinghorn. Cobbledick, a surname from my wife's ancestry, was included.

I myself come from a family where first names such as Claudius, Horace and Sarjeant were commonly inflicted on my ancestors. It made me wonder if there might be other unusual names out there that deserved a wider audience.

Thus began my own personal Odyssey through Britain's national archives, parish registers, phone books and legal documents in search of this nation's silliest names, for a book that I hoped would appeal to our particularly British sense of humour.

It has, I am pleased to report, become something of a bestseller. Yet while I would like to claim its success for myself, in truth it belongs to those who people its pages.

So take a bow, please, Teddy Bear, Edwin Quack, Nellie Smellie, Norman Conquest, Frou-Frou Mallet and Oswald Beagle Pratt among many, many others - all of them, I assure you, entirely real individuals from times past whose names have been recorded for posterity in official documents.

You can thus imagine my dismay on reading, yesterday, that some of our quirkiest names are dying from embarrassment.

According to analysis conducted by Professor Richard Webber, of King's College London, some of our oldest (and oddest) surnames have gone into decline as families change them for something blander and more 'acceptable'. Goodbye, then, all you Shufflebottoms, Gotobeds, Deaths and Jellys.

The trend is, perhaps, not wholly surprising. A sort of natural selection may have eliminated some names: most women would prefer not to marry if it meant thereby acquiring an embarrassing alternative from a putative husband (an honourable exception might be made, here, for Mary Madcap, who in 1782 married John Bastard), and thus quirky names have died out over time.

The good news, is that as genealogy has become one of the most popular uses of the internet, more and more silly names from history are coming to light.

Just like Fanny Plenty: Honor Blackman plays ***** Galore in 1964 Bond film Goldfinger. At the time there was controversy about the character's name

The frisson of discovering these names has, for me, been a constant personal pleasure. Surely, I had thought, no one can ever have been called Fanny Plenty - it's just too similar to James Bond's ***** Galore? But amazingly, I have come across several authentic examples.

They are proof of the way naming fashions change over time - ebbing and waning when they become synonymous with various rude or inappropriate terms.

Hence the once popular surname Titty died out after about 1830. And why these days you don't meet many parents bold enough to christen their daughter Gay.

So where do these names come from in the first place? The uniqueness of some can be explained as an aberration that never quite caught on. For example, half a dozen people received 'Spearmint' as a first or second name - all but one of them in 1906 - while only one person appears to have been baptised Bovril (Bovril Simpson, who married in West Ham in 1911).

On other occasions, though, it is simply impossible to fathom the psychology behind naming decisions. Take, for example, Hercules Anthill, Large Bee, Rhoda Boat and Seraphim Hooker.

What were their parents thinking? (A superfluous question in the case of Lewis Unexpected Smith, Not Wanted James Colvill and Final Eldridge, all of whom I have encountered in my research.)

Nor is this exclusively a historical phenomenon. While the bulk of the oddities I found come from centuries past, Radar Oo, Princess Diana Frempong, Phoenix Claw Unicorn and Icicle Star Crumplin all date from the 21st century.

Before I introduce you to some of my all-time favourites, whose names are so bizarre it is almost as if they are drawn from some surreal sitcom rather than from genuine historical documents, it is perhaps worth pondering one sobering truth.

I spent months tracking down the names. You can spend a few moments chuckling at them. But the people themselves had to spend their lives with them.

Here's a few others to make you blush

Extracted from Potty, Fartwell And Knob by Russell Ash, published by Headline at 6.99. Russell Ash 2008. To order a copy (p&p free), call 0845 155 0720.