Other old standards such as Brian, Kevin, Peter, Paul and Stephen are even rarer, having all but died out since last century.
Other old standards such as Brian, Kevin, Peter, Paul and Stephen are even rarer, having all but died out since last century. Agency

Christopher and Robert on the brink of extinction as names

CHRISTOPHER and Robert are on the brink of extinction as children's names.

But other old standards such as Brian, Kevin, Peter, Paul and Stephen are even rarer, having all but died out since last century.

The Weekend Herald looked at the top 10 most popular names in 1954 and tracked them over the ensuing 60 years through Department of Internal Affairs files to see which remained popular.

John was top in 1954 - when John Wayne was a major moviestar and 1389 babies were given the name. Although only 51 children joined them last year, it still made the top 100, at 86th place. David was the second most common name in 1954, and remained popular last year, when given to 67 children. But the third most popular 50 years ago, Peter, has not featured in the top 100 since 2007. The fourth, Michael, remained a hit last year, when 70 babies received the name. But the next six on the 1954 list - Robert, Paul, Stephen, Kevin, Christopher and Brian - were nowhere in last year's top 100. Robert and Christopher have fallen out of favour only since 2012.

But Robert peaked in popularity in 1961, meaning the largest group of men of that name are likely to be aged 54.

Christopher was at the height of favour in 1996. Labour MP Chris Hipkins, 36, said "fads come and go" and believed his name would come back.

"People were also confidently predicting gingers would die out some time ago, but we're getting stronger by the day."

Waterfront Auckland chairman Sir Bob Harvey said "thank God for that" when told his name had gone out of fashion. Other previously popular names fell off the top 100 list years ago - Brian after 1989, Stephen after 1997, Paul after 1998, and Kevin after 1999.

As for the top 10 girls' names in 1954, Elizabeth was sole survivor in last year's top 100.

It was in 39th place, thanks to 79 babies given that name.

Christine, the most popular girls' name in 1954, hasn't featured in the top 100 since 1998. The others that rounded out the top 10 were: Susan, which slipped out of the top 100 in 1984, Margaret (1984), Judith (1970), Jennifer (2003), Mary (1991), Patricia (1978), Linda (1979) and Barbara. Jennifer was the only name that featured in the top 100 in the 2000s.

The most popular name last year was fit for a princess - Charlotte - which was also the top name in 2013, and what the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge named their second child.

The life of Brian - with a cast of one
He's the only student at his school called Brian, but is unfazed that his name has been off the top 100 choices for Kiwi babies since 1981.

"It doesn't worry me too much," says 17-year-old Brian Jane, who has been told he is the only one with that first name among about 1300 students of Napier Boys' High School.

"A teacher looked up my name to find my timetable and told me I was the only Brian in my whole school."

But Brian, who wants to join the army and train as a mechanic, says the name is quite common in his family. He shares it with a cousin and two great uncles.

As a boarding student, he goes home to Wairoa at weekends, where he also has a neighbour called Brian.

"But he's quite old," he admits.

He may also find himself in good company in South Auckland, where recently retired midwife Cecile O'Driscoll says the name Brian has enjoyed something of a resurgence among Pacific families.

"I've delivered a few Brians," she told the Weekend Herald.

"My late husband was Brian and sometimes patients say to me they can't think of a name - what was your husband's?"

"They say they quite like that name."

Others have selected names from a far more exotic palette.

"I've delivered a Napoleon, a Gaddafi, and Castro and even a Ronald Reagan - his father was a fan of Ronald Reagan when he was US President."

- additional reporting by Mathew Dearnaley

- NZ Herald