Less Cock, more Wang!

A study carried out by a professor at King’s College in London has found that the number of people in Britain with surnames like Cockshott, Balls, Death and Shufflebottom has declined by up to 75 per cent in the last century.

The study conducted by Richard Webber, a visiting professor at the college, revealed that the number of people with the name Cock shrank to 785 last year from 3,211 in 1881, those called Balls fell to 1,299 from 2,904 and the number of Deaths were reduced to 605 from 1,133.

People named Smellie decreased by 70 per cent, Dafts by 51 per cent, Gotobeds by 42 per cent, Shufflebottoms by 40 per cent, and Cockshotts by 34 per cent.

Professor Webber said that the surnames have decreased because people have either changed their names because they were regarded as in bad taste or emigrated.

“The meaning of words can change. Take the name Daft – that as a term for a stupid is a relatively recent innovation,” he said.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Daft meant “mild” or “meek” in Old English, whereas it means “foolish” today.

In contrast, the study also revealed that between 1996 and 2008, the names Zhang, Wang, and Yang had experienced the fastest growth in the UK. Zhang rose by 4,719 per cent, while Wang grew by 2,225 per cent.