What’s in a Name?

In order for a civilised society to function in an orderly fashion there has to be a certain amount of rules and regulations.  If everybody does what they like when they like then chaos is the order of the day.  So some rules are certainly beneficial.  However, when it comes to the bestowing of names on our offspring it would seem that rules are fairly thin on the ground.

Some countries have very strict naming laws.  Indeed in Iceland there is an actual Naming Committee that decides whether a given name is acceptable.  Here names have to be gender specific and must only contain letters that are in the Icelandic Alphabet.  Nobody in Iceland is permitted to have more than three personal names, although it’s a mystery to me why anyone would want any more than this anyway.

Denmark also has a very strict law on Personal Naming that only allows parents to select a moniker for their offspring from an approved list of 7,000 names.  Anything outside this list has to receive special permission from the Church.  Interestingly,  the names must also indicate gender.

Closer to home, however, our naming laws are rather more lenient.  The UK and the US also have more liberal approaches when it comes to naming their children.  American parents can pretty much name their children anything they wish and many see this privilege as an important expression of their freedom of speech.  But when it comes to giving a lifelong label to a tiny human, the old adage remains, just because you can doesn’t mean that you should.

Tiny babies are generally fairly innocuous little beings.  They certainly are not killing machines so why on earth would you name these precious creatures after destructive weapons of war?  Yet many little boys in the US are christened Canon every year.  The mind boggles.  And what about the poor little child who was called Isis?  The parents of this misfortunate were probably thinking of the Egyptian Goddess of the same name but the Isis mythology has been trumped in some style by the Islamic group involved in a whole host of terrible world events in recent years.  Maybe they should have chosen a name that is less associated with violence and hatred.  Just a thought.

From there it goes from the sublime to the plain ridiculous.  Imagine a judge in France had to actually make a ruling to forbid a couple from naming their child Nutella.  In China parents who tried to use the “at” symbol as a name were rejected for the simple reason that numbers and non Chinese characters are not allowed.  Nothing whatsoever to do with the Twitter connotation and we won’t even mention the odd people who actually succeeded in naming their child Hashtag.  Seriously.  People are strange.

The famous musician Frank Zappa had a penchant for giving his children unusual names.  For some bizarre reason his daughter never changed hers when she became old enough and still goes by the rather odd handle of Moon Unit Zappa.  It just rolls off the tongue doesn’t it?  Imagine shouting that down the road.  “Moon Unit, dinner’s ready”.   Oh dear.

If you get a notion and decide to move to Mexico, you better not have named your child anything as normal and innocuous as Billy or Mary.  There is a deep rooted tradition in this some areas of this country for using rather odd names.  They have now passed a law to ban names that might lead to their children being bullied and mocked.  Some of these names include Email, Batman and Robocop.  I kid you not.  And if it’s ok for a celebrity offspring to be called North, does that mean that we could also christen children Up, Down, Left and Right?  That could make for an interesting first day in Junior Infants.

A further rather odd issue with the whole naming thing is parents taking a notion and going down the road of changing their mind and wanting to bestow a different name on their precious offspring. The fact that the more unusual the name, the less likely they are changed is a tad odd in itself but there was a case reported recently of a mother attempting to change her daughter’s name.  The reason behind her rather controversial decision is that her little one is due to start school and there will be others in the class with the same name.  She wanted her little darling to be unique, individual and exceptional.  I would be inclined to think that it takes more than just a name to be all of these things.  Plus it could end up being very confusing for the child if she hears others being called by her previous name and yet she is now answering to a different one?  My brain hurts even thinking about that.  Poor dote.

So there’s a lot to be said for good old fashioned Irish names.  They may be difficult to pronounce sometimes, they may be even more difficult to spell but they don’t incite laughter and derision at their very utterance.  Anyway, sometimes it’s not the first name that is the problem but the surname.  But that’s the family you’re born into and that’s a whole other story….

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Vivienne says:

    Imagine interviewing someone called RoboCop? I’m even horrified that it’s a predictive text word :-/


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