It's a practice that arguably has more to do with parental attempts to demonstrate their own startling originality than with the long-term comfort and well-being of their children.
Some friends of ours were recently getting very neurotic about the birth of a forthcoming grandchild because, had it been a girl, the parents were threatening to call her 'Nettle'. Luckily for everyone concerned, it was a boy, now safely registered as 'Edward'.
And by 'everyone' concerned, I include - at very the top of the list - the innocent victims who'll have to live with an unusual name for the rest of their lives.
Younger members of my family brand me as a 'name-fascist' when I advocate a statutory list of permitted names, along the lines of what used to apply in France. But they, of course, are too young to realise that it's only during their life-time that 'Max' has risen from nowhere to make it into the top twenty in some current lists of most popular boy's name - so it strikes them as being perfectly normal.
But, as I keep telling them, there's method in my madness that comes from experience.
MAX - a suitable name for cats, dogs, gangsters and cab-drivers
Apart from my maternal great-grandfather and grandfather (on whose birthday I was born, thereby giving my parents little choice in the matter), it was 36 years until I met anyone else called 'Max' - and he was an Australian.
Before that, it was a name exclusively reserved for cats, dogs and hamsters. The only partial exception to this was 'Maxie', who made occasional appearances being bumped off in the second reel of American gangster movies. Readers of the early Beano may also remember, though not as vividly as I do, that it featured a comic strip about a cab-driver called 'Maxy's Taxi'.
Do you really want your child to be singled out?
Apart from the slight irritation of being nick-named after a cartoon character, my name didn't bother me too much until I was shipped off to a prep school from ages 8-13. The headmaster called all the other 119 of the 120 boys by their surnames. He never explained to me (or anyone else, as far as I kow) why I was the only one in the school to be called by his first name, and can only assume that it must have been because I happened to be the only one there with such an unusual name.
I've no idea whether or not it did me any long-term damage, but I do know that I didn't much like being the only one who was singled out from the crowd in this way.
Do you really want your child to feel excluded?
Throughout my childhood, the thing that really bugged me about my name was its total and complete absence from the racks of monogrammed pencils, combs, mugs and other seaside souvenirs at Filey and Scarborough. Think what it feels like when you're the only child on the promenade with nothing whatsoever to choose from - I'd even have settled for 'Maxie', but that was never there either - while everyone else could chose pretty much anything they liked with 'David', 'Michael' or 'Richard' printed on it.
Times have changed
Today, of course, I'd have no problem in buying a pencil or comb with 'Max' on it - but the new problem is that grandparents are finding it more and more difficult to find souvenirs with their grandchildren's names on them.
In response to my grumpy old man's rants on the subject, the younger generation of parents tell me that obscure names have become so common as to be the new norm, which means that no one will notice them as being unusual any more.
For the sake of the new generations of children with novelty names, I just hope they're right.
As for those in the business of producing monogrammed novelties, the development of print-on-demand technology has presumably made it possible for them to cater for any imaginable combination of letters - and even, in the case of the new Beckham baby, numbers - that may be required.