Posts Tagged With: names

What’s in a Name?

Ready to learn something new? In Iceland, the government has published an official list of acceptable first names. Parents can either choose from the list or make a request for an exception. If it doesn’t follow the naming guidelines, it will be rejected, and the parents will have to choose something else. Names must only contain letters in the Icelandic alphabet and must fit grammatically with the language or they will be automatically rejected.

Here is an interesting article about a girl in Iceland whose name, though quite normal (Blaer), wasn’t on the list, but the mistake wasn’t caught. At age 15, she is still fighting for legal acceptance of the name she has used her whole life.

This concept is really foreign for Americans. We have celebrities naming their children things like Moxie Crimefighter, Pilot Inspektor, Kal-El, Buddy Bear Maurice, and Zuma Nesta Rock (no joke–these are all real). Perhaps the naming committee isn’t such a bad idea. Even my own family has its share of made-up baby names, though at least they are easy to pronounce and are not nearly as bizarre as the examples I just gave.

Here are some other countries that have baby naming laws (see article here):

Germany: You must be able to tell the gender by the first name, and the name cannot negatively affect the child.

Sweden: The law was originally created to prevent non-nobles from using noble names. It has since changed to protect children from names that cause offense or discomfort for the person with the name, or that are “not suitable” as a first name for some obvious reason.

Japan: A list of several thousand “name kanji” and “commonly used characters” contains characters that can be used for first names. Each person receives one given name and one surname, and it must be obvious which is which, regardless of the order in which they are written.

Denmark: Similar to Iceland, Denmark has a list of 7,000 approved names that parents must choose from. Names must indicate gender, last names cannot be used as a first name, and unusual names may be rejected. Denmark officials reject 15-20% of name exception requests that they receive each year.

New Zealand: Names cannot cause offense, be unreasonably long, or resemble an official title or rank.

China: Though parents can technically choose the name, a new law requires Chinese characters that can be scanned into the computer system on national identification cards. Of 70,000 characters, only about 13,000 can be represented on the computer. Numbers and non-Chinese characters are also not allowed.

What do you think? Is it a basic human right to be able to name your children whatever you want? Or is it wise to save children from possible ridicule and other name-related difficulties?

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