THE NAMING of babies is perhaps the one time in a child's life when it would be better not to have two parents. My wife and I fought for nine months the first time around without reaching agreement. We didn't name Barnaby until he was three days old. When the second was born, it took a week of postnatal argument to come up with John.

This time we know the sex already. My wife wanted to know, so that if it turned out to be another boy, she could do all her crying ahead of time. He is, and she did. With our choices halved, we could have made an early start on names. But with eight weeks to go, we have only just had our first fight. This, at least, is progress. (Note: because this subject is fraught with notions of class, taste and judgment, I have decided to change all the names below, except for Charles.)

Last week my wife found my hidden book of baby names and started flipping through it, saying names out loud. This is a trick I am familiar with: she does not say whether she is seriously putting up Hippolytus for consideration. She just says it. It could be a joke, or perhaps a stalking horse. I counter with Howard. She takes this at face value, even though I was joking, and looks at me as if I had just walked in off the street. When I put forward sensible names, she begins to make random rules, disallowing names ending in "y" or "ie", Irish or family names. I suggest Steve.

Suddenly my wife purses her lips like she's looking into a basket full of puppies and says "Giles. Sweet!" I snatch the book and suggest Charles as a human alternative for Giles, which is clearly a monkey name. She says the name Charles makes her feel physically sick. I dispute the name book's authority because it does not contain the name Orenthal. I fetch down the Dictionary of Saints, which doesn't contain Orenthal either, but it does have Ultan, which my wife likes. I suggest we save the boy time by calling him Kick Me.

My wife walks away, saying it's her turn to choose a name anyway, because I chose for the first two, which is untrue. I counter by saying she may choose from my three final selections: Lucky, Julio and The Bird.

Later I hear her on the phone, telling someone the only names I like are Robert and Doug. For the next two days I repeat my offer that she pick from my shortlist, but I change the choices every time until I exhaust my mental stock of unpleasant names: Vince, Joel, Glen, Herman, Mr Pickles.

Barnaby thinks we should just call this one John again. This is by no means the worst idea I've heard all week. It would save time, and we could call one Johnny Ears and the other Johnny the Chin or Johnny Hub Caps, like they do in the Mafia. It probably won't happen, but for now it's our official first choice.