The game of the name

Choosing a name for your newborn baby is an important task, and the choice must be a solid one

Peter Edgerton

María and Antonio are, according to the official data, the most common given names in Malaga for females and males respectively. Meanwhile, for newborn babies, Martina and Manuel are currently parents' first choice. All four names listed are more than worthy of their popularity in my opinion, offering, as they do, a sense of reliability and gravitas to the people concerned. Contemplating this rather interesting information over a steaming cup of coffee this morning, I found myself considering the heavy responsibility parents have when bestowing a moniker on their offspring. The name we're given at birth will accompany us for the entirety of our lives - it's no wonder that new parents find themselves knee deep in baby name books, searching frantically for the perfect option.

Most people I know suit their names but occasionally we'll be thrown a curve ball when being introduced to someone at a party.

"Hi, it's very nice to meet you. My name's Tarquin."

"Nice to meet you, too, Tarquin. Tell me - what's it like working in the media?'

"I've got no idea. I clean sewage systems for a living."

Whatever somebody is called, it inevitably leads to them being pre-judged. If, for example, someone introduces herself as Tabitha you might reasonably expect her to own a random selection of horses and spend her free time air-kissing strangers at dinner parties. In reality, she may well work in the local tyre factory but, quite understandably, that would never be your first guess. Our preconceptions are conditioned by experience and, all too often, reality TV programmes.

That's why if we want to offer our children the best possible start in life, it's essential they're given good, solid names. Call your son John and he could just as easily turn out to be a plumber or an eye surgeon; nobody is going to stare at him incredulously however he introduces himself. For girls, I would suggest Elizabeth is the best option because, apart from being a beautiful name in itself, it has so many abbreviated versions that your daughter will be able to glide through her days like an enchanted chameleon, changing from Beth to Betty or Ellie to Lizzy whenever the whim takes her.

Of course, if everyone called their children by the same two names, classroom mayhem would soon follow, so you might also want to consider a couple of equally reliable but, at the same time, vaguely exotic choices. Like María or Antonio, for example.