Over on the reading pet peeves thread, Cabbageweevil said: "given names for the great majority of males in England were John, Richard, Thomas, William, and James; and for the great majority of females, Mary, Elizabeth, Katherine, and Ann(e). "
Which I found fascinating, and immediately wondered why it was so? Surely humankind (even back in history) could have come up with a wider variety of names?
I understand that names were often passed though the family line, and other names were considered appropriate for first daughters/first sons etc. Also that names had to be fit for the class the person was born into. So, some caveats and social conventions to adhere to, but I still wondered why we have such a myriad of names now as opposed to a very small amount of choice previously.
Also, what about other cultures? I gather that children in certain cultures are given names which reflect their birth order (Wayan, I seem to recall is the number "One" son in Bali.) Or some cultures don't name children until a certain time limit is passed, but may use a generic name, if any.
What do others know of naming customs? Curious here.