I've just been reading "A suitable vengeance" by Elizabeth George, and have found it rather disconcerting to read about a female character with the name "Sidney".
I've never encountered a female Sidney in real life, and the image that comes to mind is my wife's uncle Sid, who was a rather boring old geezer with grey hair. Calling an (apparently) glamorous female character "Sidney" is a bit like calling one "Alfred" or "Stanley" or some other popular Victorian/Edwardian male name.
I've read a number of other books by Elizabeth George she writes wodunits, featuring Scotland Yard detectives Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers, and their friends and colleagues. Among these are Simon St James, who is both a friend of Lynley and a specialist in forensic medicine. The Sidney is Simon St James's sister, but doesn't appeaer to feature in most of the novels, which is why I've only encountered her now.
My question is, has Sidney become a common female name in Britain? And if so, when did it become popular? Has anyone else encountered female Sidneys, in literature or real life? Am I the only one who finds this strange as a female name?
To genealogists out there - has anyone found a female Sidney on a census? If anyone has the 1881 census discs, is it possible to search for the number of Sidneys, and see how many are male or female?

Steve Hayes
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My question is, has Sidney become a common female name in Britain?

Well, it has in the United States. From the U. S. Census Bureau on the most common names given to babies in 2003, we have: "Interestingly Sydney as a female name ranked as the 25th most popular name while Sidney as a male name ranked lower at 685."

Regards, Frank Young
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I've just been reading "A suitable vengeance" by Elizabeth George, and have found it rather disconcerting to read about a ... census discs, is it possible to search for the number of Sidneys, and see how many are male or female?

"Sidney" is a fairly common female name in the USA (OJ Simpson's younger daughter is called Sidney), which might be more to the point. Elizabeth George is a US writer, whose books are set in the UK - actually, her latest one is set on Guernsey.
Like Martha Grimes, another US writer of mysteries set in Britain, she has to have a couple of aristocratic characters to make them seem authentic.
Fran
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My question is, has Sidney become a common female name in Britain?

Well, it has in the United States. From the U. S. Census Bureau on the most common names given to ... a female name ranked as the 25th most popular name while Sidney as a male name ranked lower at 685."

Isn't there some evidence that, once a name becomes popular as a female name, it falls out of favour very quickly as a male name?

FRAN
I don't have access to the 1881 census, but a quick search of the 1891 census returned 433 results for female Sidneys, although a quick check of the first few pages of results shows several were entered as female but their relationship to the HOH is "son." By contrast, a search for male Sidneys returned 45,820 results. In 1871, the results are 115 females; 6,019 males. I don't believe either of those indexes (on Ancestry.com) are complete but it gives you an idea of how common the name was.

Tara Larkin
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I too find it hard to get used to; but my sister assures me that she's found and liked it in 20C literature.
Withycombe's Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names , 1977, (that's going to need renaming, on two counts, if it hasn't happened already!) says it's not uncommon in Ireland, and relates probably it to 'Sidony'/'Sidonia'/'Sindonia'. The sindon, or sendon, in question is the Turin Shroud: the name "was formerly used by Roman Catholics for girls born about the date of the Feast of the Winding Sheet...'the Sacred Sendon'."

Mike.
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(re 'Sidney' as a girl's name)
Withycombe's Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names , 1977, (that's going to need renaming, on two counts, if it hasn't happened already!) says it's not uncommon in Ireland, and relates probably it to 'Sidony'/'Sidonia'/'Sindonia'.

Well, that's not too surprising. This newfangled popularity of 'Sidney' as a female name smacks of Hiberno-Britosupremacism(TM). In general, Hiberno-Britosupremacism usually manifests itself in the area of child-naming in the giving of names to girls wherein the name is (a) an established Hiberno-Britic(tm) surname, and (b) a name ending in /i/ pronunciation-wise (for standard AmE) and (c) that final syllable must orthographically be -y or -ey.
Each of (a), (b) and (c) must be satisfied. Thus, no baby girls are being named "Brzinski" or "Fanelli", because, while (b) is satisfied, (a) and (c) are not. Similarly, no baby girls are being named "O'Fallon" because, while (a) is satisfied, (b) and (c) are not. However, there are some interesting exceptions where (a) is satisfied only, yet the name has come to be in use. In those cases, generally the more Pseudo-Celtic-sounding the surname, the more likely it is to be accepted, though, again, there are limits (e.g., no "O'" surnames seem to be catching on). Then there are cases where (a), (b) and (c) are satisfied but the name seems to be prohibited, as for example with "Dempsey".
I too find it hard to get used to; but my sister assures me that she's found and liked ... formerly used by Roman Catholics for girls born about the date of the Feast of the Winding Sheet...'the Sacred Sendon'."

I knew a Sidonie at university. (Why are you masquerading under another monniker?)

Laura
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My question is, has Sidney become a common female name in Britain? And if so, when did it become popular? Has anyone else encountered female Sidneys, in literature or real life? Am I the only one who finds this strange as a female name?

Certainly is increasingly popular in the US. From my favorite name site:

Sydney (Female)
- -
Year 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 Rank 155 138 127 111 77 44 41 35 29 24 23 23 23

http://www.thenamereport.com
Extended historical data shows that it had a small popularity bump around 1940, dropped back down then took off like a rocket in the 1970's.
As a male name, it was moderately popular in the early part of the 20th Century, but fell steadily until it went off the charts in the 50's.
I love that site.
Brian Rodenborn
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