There are few things in life that gives the average person more power than naming a baby. You get to choose what a human being is called forever (or until they turn 16 and can change it by deed poll).
With huge power comes huge responsibility. Here's a handy guide to naming that you can print out, put in your pocket, and use when you impregnate someone or get personally impregnated.
A name should:
- Be good in all stages of life. Think how it's going to sound as they grow up. My daughter is called Kitty. This works well as a kid because all children like cats and all girls like Hello Kitty. It's cool and sassy for a single girl in her twenties (let's be honest, it's a bit of a stripper name). It's great for an old lady ("Kitty Knox, Chairwoman of the WI"). It's only in middle age that it lets itself down, but three out of four isn't bad.
- Cross class boundaries. Improve your child's chances of making it in politics by avoiding names that identify them as belonging to a particular social strata. It's not a coincidence that our Prime Minister is called David/Dave, one of the most class neutral names on offer. Pick a moniker suitable for both visiting a building site and attending a black tie ball, that way if your offspring ends up running our country they can disappoint all sections of society equally.
- Work well as initials. This is something to consider when picking middle names. I couldn't give my daughter a middle name like Karen or Kirsty.
- Sound good with cool professions. A friend of mine called his son Ethan Stelfox. That's incredible. There is no way Ethan Stelfox will not grow up to be amazing. It sounds good with all the cool jobs. Ethan Stelfox, fighter pilot. Ethan Stelfox, astronaut. And the Oscar for best actor goes to... Ethan Stelfox. The name's Stelfox, Ethan Stelfox.
- Work well with your surname. We liked the name Poppy, but Poppy Knox sounds like you're saying Poppycock so it got discounted. I met a guy at a gig once whose brother was called Nicholas Hoare, which sounds like Knicker-less Whore. An old university friend of mine, Malcolm File, threatened to call his future son Peter.
A name should not:
- Be too popular or too obscure. Too popular is boring and makes you look unimaginative, too obscure and people will forever be asking you to spell it, or thinking that you made it up. Every year the Office for National Statistics publishes data for baby names in England & Wales so you can check whether it's being overused. Bear in mind that many names you think are popular aren't really used much these days. There were only 37 Sallys born in 2013, making it less popular than Mercedes (42) and Summer-Rose (57). Only 28 girls were named Jane. Note however that whilst you can make educated guesses, you really don't know whether a name will take off. You'll learn to fear the name tables every year, lest your son's carefully selected name has a surge in popularity and becomes the new Jack or Harry.
- Encourage people to bully your child. If your child is called Hulk Sexmachine Schwarzenegger and is tiny, asthmatic and wears glasses, it isn't going to do him any favours. If he's six foot four at the age of 13, good looking and built like a tank, he isn't getting bullied anyway. A good name won't stop bullying, but a bad name can cause problems. David and Victoria Beckham can call a kid Romeo because they're David and Victoria Beckham so their kid will be popular anyway. You aren't David and Victoria Beckham. You can't call your kid Romeo.
- Be the name of a kids' TV character. This is where we went wrong. If you pick a name similar to a cartoon that has extensive merchandising contracts, people buy you a lot of stuff. We have more Hello Kitty products in our house than the entire teenage population of Japan put together. We'll be more careful next time when our son Pikachu is born.
- Be the name of a murderous jihadi terrorist organisation. On our podcast, a listener told us about a girl who had recently been named Isis. This is a child born in the last few months, not a child born years ago (that's just unlucky). Before you name a child, turn on the news and see if governments are carrying out airstrikes against your future daughter. If so, maybe have a rethink.