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The Knack: How to name your baby.

In some cultures, children are not considered born until they have been named. Britain's system of birth registration is a bureaucratic form of the same belief. Naming your child is a big responsibility. Liking a name is one thing, but living it is another. So be careful.

Never underestimate the athleticism of the British when it come to mispronunciation. Always sound out possible names in tandem with the surname. This also applies to possible nicknames - imagine the fate of someone called Richard Head, for example. Try and ensure also that no horrible acronym will result from the initials of the names chosen. Parents considering androgynous options should think carefully - will their child have to answer enquiries as to their gender all their life? It can be tempting to name a child after a well-loved friend or relative, but what suited your great-gran may stifle a Nineties infant. The child with a very popular name may happily share it with others, or feel dull and unoriginal. And the child bearing a singular name may be bullied by its peer group. So try to balance a glamorous first name with a less extravagant second name. This gives children some flexibility once they know their own minds. Under no circumstances give your child a "humorous" name. If it's a joke to you, then your poor kid could become a joke to everyone else. If you want a stupid name in your family, change your own. Fiona McClymont

Jane Spence is the author of `The Virgin Book of Baby Names', published by Virgin, pounds 3.99