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Last Updated: Friday, 10 August 2007, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
What can you name your child?
The Magazine answers...

Baby to be called Superman
His parents could not call him 4Real... so now he is Superman
A New Zealand couple blocked from naming their baby 4Real have instead settled on Superman. So what are the rules on naming children in the UK?

Apple, Brooklyn, Zowie, Fifi Trixibelle... celebrity offspring have often ended up with more colourful entries on their birth certificates than us mere mortals.

But British parents hoping to bestow elaborate, unusual or just plain bizarre names to their children may find it easier than those in other countries.

The UK's rules on baby names are among the most liberal in the world. A spokesman for the General Register Office says there are no restrictions on parents - except for exceptional cases, such as a name which could be deemed offensive, when an official could refuse to register it. He refused to divulge if there had been any such cases.

UK permits any name, except for those deemed offensive
Two UK children have been named 'Superman' since 1984
But countries like Portugal, Argentina, Germany and Spain have an officially-sanctioned list

But there have been two children named Superman in the UK since 1984, along with six boys named Gandalf and 29 Gazzas, according to figures released last year by the genealogy website findmypast.com. There are even 36 Arsenals of both sexes.

Nor is there anything to stop an adult exchanging his or her given name for something more subversive - hence Professor Perri 6, of Nottingham Trent University.

New Zealand, like the UK, has few controls on the names parents can choose, but Pat and Sheena Wheaton were banned from registering their son as 4Real as names beginning with numbers are forbidden. He's now Superman instead.

The Kiwi authorities are more relaxed than their counterparts in Sweden, where in 2003 a couple were prevented from naming their son Staalman, the Swedish title for the comic book Man of Steel.

Banned names

And the likes of Denmark, Spain, Germany and Argentina all publish lists of acceptable names from which new mothers and fathers must choose.

Question Mark - from original architect's doodle design for BBC TV Centre
A regular part of the BBC News Magazine, Who, What, Why? aims to answer some of the questions behind the headlines
In Portugal, the Ministry of Justice's website includes 39 pages of officially-sanctioned names and 41 pages of those which are banned. Included in the latter group are Lolita, Maradona and Mona Lisa. But Portugal is being lobbied to repeal its controls, and four years ago, Norway replaced its own list with a ban on swear and sex words, illnesses and negative names.

But not everyone is convinced that the trend for non-traditional nomenclature is good for children.

Professor Helen Petrie, from the University of York, has studied the psychological effects of having an unusual name.

"I found that people with unusual names had a really hard time, particularly when they were children," she says.

"They described getting teased and how traumatic it could be - because all children want to fit in. But when they became adults, they are often glad that they have something to help them stand out from the crowd.

"People with very common names sometimes feel that they aren't unique enough. So I think there's a happy medium to be struck."

Parents explain what 4Real meant to them

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