You can’t ask me that!

What’s your name?

Continuing her series tackling socially unacceptable questions, Christine Manby considers a question that begins with parents and ends with the rest of our lives

Monday 21 January 2019 18:32 GMT

Becoming a parent involves a few basic responsibilities like feeding and clothing the child in your care and keeping their tiny fingers from the dog’s mouth or the gas fire. However, it seems to me there is one more parental responsibility that ought to be much higher on the list – giving your child a name they can live with. A name that they won’t spend the whole of their life having to spell out letter by letter, excuse or explain.

Luckily governments all over the world agree. There are strict rules about what you can and can’t name a child in countries such as Sweden where “First names shall not be approved if they can cause offence or can be supposed to cause discomfort for the one using it, or names which for some obvious reason are not suitable as a first name”. Or Denmark, where parents have to choose a name from a pre-approved list of 7,000 monikers.

In France, as recently as 1993, you had to name your child according to a list set down by Napoleon Bonaparte. Needless to say, Chanel and Chardonnay weren’t on it. Though they’ve loosened up on baby names, the French still have a strict special system for naming dogs. Each year is assigned a letter of the alphabet and that’s the letter with which any dog born in that year’s name must start. This year’s letter is P, in case you’re wondering. So Pongo is in and Fido is officially out.

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