Time was you'd look to your grandparents for your newborn child's first name, or perhaps the monarch. George, Margaret, something respectable, with a crease to it. And then get back to the Home Service and the suet. But today? Well what you call your child will say as much about you and your – horrid word! – aspirations as the car in your driveway and those lumps from Ikea cluttering up your sitting-room: Kai, Jayden and Madison were all fast risers in the Office of National Statistics' last list of most popular baby names in England and Wales (2009), and where do they come from?

At the top of these lists there are few surprises: Olivia, Chloe, Emily; Oliver, Jack, Joshua. But let me guess: you want quirky but not mad; evocative but not archaic; surprising but not isn't-next-door's-dog-called-that? Yet every sweet name you can think of has been used by recent arrivals among your friends and family (and God knows even if you all wear the same brands and use the same phones, you draw the line at bringing yet another Stanley into the world). Still, you have your shortlist which you keep to you and your partner.

Then the big day comes and you realise, looking into the wrinkly eyes of your issue, that you haven't quite the heart to follow through with Wolfgang or Coco-Petal. So, with the deadline to register your child's name looming, you do exactly what you said you wouldn't: among the nappies and half-built cots, you start speed-reading the baby-name books. You stop when you arrive at a name that your partner doesn't object to (though he/she may just be asleep) and get down the town hall quick.

Then there's just the matter of explaining the name to your upset and bewildered elderly relatives. A couple of tips from the hard-won experience of Being Modern: stick with a name each parent can actually pronounce. And if you do decide that Gunter or Moonbeam isn't cutting it after a few months, change it and prepare to take the flak. Which brings us on to the christening/blessing/naming ceremony...

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