Children’s names are in the news again after New Zealand authorities published a list of names rejected over the past decade. They include the pretentious (King, Prince, Princess, Knight…), the religiously offensive (Messiah, Christ, Lucifer) and those offensive on other grounds (V8, Anal, Mafia No Fear, numbers, single letters and punctuation marks).
Most popular among the rejected names was Justice, with 49 attempts. Like Duke, Bishop and Constable it comes under the heading of “unearned titles”.
Questioned by officialdom but allowed was the name Nevaeh – heaven spelled backwards — which reportedly has become the 38th most popular girls name in the New Zealand. The most popular names last year were Liam and Ruby. Thank goodness.
According to The Economist, America and Britain have the most tolerant naming laws: “Distinction-hungry celebrities make the most of this, as with Moon Unit (Frank Zappa), Apple (Gwyneth Platrow) and Pilot Inspektor (the actor Jason Lee).”
Should parents have the right to name their children just as they please? Many people asked off the cuff (as in the video on this page) would say yes. But the worst examples above would surely give them pause. And anyway, it is common for countries to regulate the choice of both first names and surnames.
No doubt that is dictated to some extent by their bureaucratic needs, but one hopes it is inspired also by respect for the child. According to UN instruments, the best interests of the child are meant to prevail in disputes involving them — although divorce and now same-sex adoption and parenting push adult interests to the fore.
In the case of a name, it will be years before the child can protest about an embarrassing name, and even longer before they can officially change it.
It may be amusing or self-gratifying for parents to call their baby King, Lord or President, but amusement and self-gratification are not what raising a child is about, is it?