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News about Britain

What's in a name?

What would you call your baby?

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Recently, a couple in New Zealand were forbidden from naming their baby son 4Real. Even though New Zealand has quite liberal rules about naming children, names beginning with a number are not allowed. They decided to call him Superman instead.

In many countries around the world, unusual names for children are becoming more popular, especially since the increasing trend for celebrities to give their children wacky names. In Britain, you can call a child almost anything you like - the only restrictions on parents relate to offensive words such as swear words.

Some parents choose names which come from popular culture. For example, there have been six boys named Gandalf after the character in the Lord of the Rings novels and films. Equally, names relating to sport are fairly common - since 1984, 36 children have been called Arsenal after the football team.

Other parents like to make up names, or combine names to make their own unique version, a method demonstrated by Jordan, the British model, who recently invented the name TiƔamii for her daughter by combining the names Thea and Amy (the two grandmothers). She was quoted as saying that the accent and double letters were added to make the name 'more exotic'.

Other countries have much stricter rules when it comes to naming children. Countries including Japan, Denmark, Spain, Germany and Argentina have an approved list of names from which parents must choose. In China, there are some rules about what you may call a child - no foreign letters or symbols are allowed. As a result a couple were recently banned from calling their baby @.

In Britain, some names which were previously thought of as old-fashioned have become more popular again, such as Maisie or Ella for a girl, or Alfie or Noah for a boy. But the most popular names are not the wacky ones. The top names are fairly traditional - Jack, Charlie and Thomas for boys and Grace, Ruby and Jessica for girls.



believing in and/or allowing more personal freedom

a new development, fashion

unusual in a positive, exciting or silly way

limits (especially established by laws or rules)

causing upset or hurt feelings

swear words
rude, offensive words

if you name someone after someone or something, you give them the same name as another person or thing

to make up
to invent

the only one of the kind, very unusual

a mark written or printed over a letter to show you how to pronounce it

unusual and often exciting

limiting further (someone's freedom to do as they wish)

when it comes to
as far as ... is concerned

not allowed, not permitted

not modern, belonging to the past

here, most popular

here, common, widely used

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Download this pdf file (73 K) to practise your English
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Names for a laugh!
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CBBC: Do you have an unusual name?
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Escaping a silly name
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What can you name your child?
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Unusual baby names *

* The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
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