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This is not the Messiah you're looking for.
August 19, 2013 9:01 AM   Subscribe

Last weekend a judge in Tennessee changed a baby's name from Messiah to Martin. Following this, Dahlia Lithwick looked into what level governments restrict baby names around the world and the U.S.
posted by DynamiteToast (176 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
NPR interviewed Dahlia Lithwick about her article this weekend, and when I looked the article up it included all the links I would've put in a post so I figured I'd just link it instead.
posted by DynamiteToast at 9:02 AM on August 19, 2013


Inspired in part by the Tennessee case, my local NPR station had a pretty interesting show on names this morning.
posted by gauche at 9:04 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


"The word Messiah is a title and it's a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ," Judge Ballew said.

The word Judge is a title that should not apply to anyone who would ever say that in a ruling.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:06 AM on August 19, 2013 [106 favorites]


Lu Ballew it.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:08 AM on August 19, 2013


Well it's a good thing no one is ever named Jesus either!
posted by Big_B at 9:09 AM on August 19, 2013 [18 favorites]


I'm okay with governments not allowing children to be saddled with terrible names. You may call me a statist or cultural imperialist now, depending on your affiliation.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:09 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Where's that one Louis CK bit when you need it
posted by MangyCarface at 9:10 AM on August 19, 2013


Well it's a good thing no one is ever named Jesus either!

That's the thing. The judge dismissed that question as irrelevant, but I can't think of any name that could be more relevant. How on Earth is it irrelevant?
posted by mochapickle at 9:11 AM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have mother fucking had it with the way people in this country dismiss and belittle black peoples' naming conventions. Oh, you can mock it because "it's made-up"? Fuck you. "Oh, we've completely erased your cultural heritage so you don't have a traditional naming system to use? Well you can't just MAKE UP A NAME (as if every name on Earth was not "made up" at some point)- here, just use a NORMAL (European, Christian, white) name like Sarah or Michael. If you don't, it's your OWN fault if people trash your kids' job applications (because their racism is, as always, not THEIR fault.)"

Fuck.

So we have to stop coming up with new names in 2013, when people have been inventing names for the entirety of human history, because?
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:12 AM on August 19, 2013 [110 favorites]


I'm okay with governments not allowing children to be saddled with terrible names. You may call me a statist or cultural imperialist now, depending on your affiliation.

Me, too. If you want a "creative, original" name, change your own damn name instead inflicting that nonsense on your kids.
posted by nooneyouknow at 9:13 AM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


The judge's decision makes that clear, though. Jesus is a name (a fairly common name even around 5 BC) while Christ is a title.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:13 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I see from googling that Major Garrett is a white house correspondent, so busy/specialized, but this is one story he should cover.
posted by sammyo at 9:13 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Regina and Rex are titles too. Would she disallow these names for non-monarchs?

And what of Judge Reinhold?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:14 AM on August 19, 2013 [23 favorites]


I'm okay with governments not allowing children to be saddled with terrible names.

This might be a relevant (albeit wrong) opinion of a case brought before a judge about a child's first name. However, the actual case before the judge was about the child's LAST name. And this activist judge went and changed the first one.
posted by DU at 9:14 AM on August 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'd like to see him use that argument on King Ghidorah! "King" is totally a real name on Planet X!
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:14 AM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Last weekend a judge in Tennessee changed a baby's name from Messiah to Martin.

If she's going to be that crazy, she could have at least had the decency to rename the kid 'Brian' to at least make an attempt at hiding behind Poe's Law.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 9:15 AM on August 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


Mildly relevant: A few weeks ago, I learned that "Joshua" is an English translation of "Jesus".
posted by nooneyouknow at 9:15 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


My wife's great grandfather was named Christ.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:16 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Link to Social Security names database

If you look at Tennesse's most popular names last year, there are loads of them that are simply made up. Kayden, Jaxson, Jaxon, Rylee. Also, I learned that Presley is one of the top 100 names for girls. (My whole family is from Tennessee, and my cousins mostly have Biblical names.)
posted by mochapickle at 9:17 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


It would be awesome if she changed the kid's name to Mashiach because none of those ignorant fuckwads would know it is exactly the same thing.
posted by elizardbits at 9:18 AM on August 19, 2013 [19 favorites]


"The word Messiah is a title and it's a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ," Judge Ballew said.

Nobody just came out the sky and gave it to Jesus, he had to earn it the old-fashioned way going to night classes in Messiah Studies down at the community college
posted by theodolite at 9:19 AM on August 19, 2013 [39 favorites]


so can I call her an "Activist Judge" now?

also, will an altered birth certificate make it harder for the baby to run for president in the future?
posted by Dr. Twist at 9:19 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


There was a Judge in Milwaukee decades back named Christ Seraphim....
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:19 AM on August 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


...Mashiach because none of those ignorant fuckwads would know it is exactly the same thing.

Interesting that people who can pronounce Bach are the ignorant ones here.
posted by DU at 9:20 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


This might be a relevant (albeit wrong) opinion of a case brought before a judge about a child's first name. However, the actual case before the judge was about the child's LAST name. And this activist judge went and changed the first one.

This might be a relevant comment if I were referring to the first link explicitly instead of speaking in general terms. Please, explain to the rest of us intolerant cavemen the rich cultural history of "Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116" that Sweden is squashing.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:24 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


[joke re: forcing parents to pick another Handel]
posted by Sys Rq at 9:24 AM on August 19, 2013 [21 favorites]


mochapickle: "Link to Social Security names database"

There are a heck of a lot of girls named Reagan. I don't mean to be ignant on the internet, but I do not get that name.
posted by boo_radley at 9:24 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


oh shit, there's a lot of girls named Trinity, too. That's gotta be like, a triple whammy for Judge Ballew.
posted by boo_radley at 9:25 AM on August 19, 2013 [13 favorites]


There are a heck of a lot of girls named Reagan. I don't mean to be ignant on the internet, but I do not get that name.

It's Irish and predates Ronnie (and The Exorcist) by a lot of years.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:25 AM on August 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


...explain to the rest of us intolerant cavemen the rich cultural history of "Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116" that Sweden is squashing.

Names have to have a rich cultural history? Does that apply to usernames too? What's the functional difference?
posted by DU at 9:26 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are a heck of a lot of girls named Reagan. I don't mean to be ignant on the internet, but I do not get that name.

Regan.
posted by capricorn at 9:27 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


And what if little Martin is in fact the Messiah? He'll have to go through all that time consuming name change paperwork before laying waste to the wicked earth. Also Lu Ann's own name sounds pretty made up.
posted by last night a dj saved my life at 9:28 AM on August 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


From the Lithwick article: ...the notion that judges can intercede to change a baby’s name in order to protect her from bad consequences later in life may shock the heck out of Americans but it is remarkably common worldwide.

I honestly don't give a shit that judges can weigh in on this issue. It's the bullshit asinine, religion-based reason given for changing the name: "The word Messiah is a title and it's a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ," Judge Ballew said."

elizardbits: "It would be awesome if she changed the kid's name to Mashiach because none of those ignorant fuckwads would know it is exactly the same thing."

You might be surprised. Certain Christian sects seem to be positively obsessed with the idea that their Messiah is going to return and take the devout to heaven. They're pretty well-versed.
posted by zarq at 9:29 AM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I would loved for mom to have suggested "Jehovah", leading to something like this:

Judge: You can't name your child "Messiah." Pick another one.

Mom: Ok; "Jehovah" then

Judge (incredulously): What?

Mom: Jehovah! Jehovah! Jehovah!

Judge: Look; you're only making it worse on yourself...
posted by TedW at 9:35 AM on August 19, 2013 [11 favorites]


DU: "Does that apply to usernames too? What's the functional difference?"
Did your parents choose your MeFi username for you?
posted by brokkr at 9:37 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree with the judge. He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty boy.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:38 AM on August 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


In Germany the child’s gender must be immediately obvious by the first name...

That's interesting in light of Germany's recent announcement that children who are born of indeterminate gender* no longer have to be categorized as "male" or "female" on their birth certificate. I wonder how it'll work out for those kids?

*I'm quoting the HP's article there; shouldn't it be "indeterminate sex"?
posted by metaBugs at 9:39 AM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Me, too. If you want a "creative, original" name, change your own damn name instead inflicting that nonsense on your kids.

"Creative, original" !=terrible or nonsense.
posted by rtha at 9:39 AM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


You cannot name your child "Messiah". As an alternative, we suggest "Messiah674", "Siah_Mes", or "Messi_Original", all of which are currently available.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:43 AM on August 19, 2013 [48 favorites]


"parents should be able to name their kids whatever they want " goes right along with "parents shouldn't have to educate those kids they own if they don't want to" in that pile of backwards ass arguments I disagree with.
posted by jacalata at 9:43 AM on August 19, 2013


What's so earth-shatteringly "creative, original" about Messiah? It's thousands of years old. Hardly earth-shattering.

And, I mean, if we're banning names based on the argument that only one person in the bible is called that, forget it.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:43 AM on August 19, 2013


Yes, we need to go back to good old traditional no-nonsense names like Æþelwulf and Swæfberht.
posted by elizardbits at 9:45 AM on August 19, 2013 [28 favorites]


Sys Rq: "It's Irish and predates Ronnie"

But it was predominantly a surname, right? That's what I'm getting tripped up on. It sounds like you're naming a kid something like "Jones Brown" or "Smith Johnson". When did it leap to praenomen?
posted by boo_radley at 9:45 AM on August 19, 2013


Predominantly, yes, but not at all exclusively.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:46 AM on August 19, 2013


No, actually. The surname was originally derived from a personal name, Riagán.
posted by zarq at 9:47 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'd assumed so as well. Traditionally, surnames tended to be stuff like FatherSon or Tradename or OfAPlace, right?
posted by elizardbits at 9:50 AM on August 19, 2013


zarq: "No, actually. The surname was originally derived from a personal name, Riagán."

Huh. I figured you went to wikipedia for that, and I thought, "hey, why not". So here: the surname Regan, which is derived from Ó Ríagáin, meaning "descendant of Riagán" . So using Riagán (Reagan) as a surname is less correct than using it as a given name! What a strange and terrible world we live in.
posted by boo_radley at 9:53 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Messiah is a beautiful name, and this judge is wrong to base a legal ruling on her own religious beliefs.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 9:56 AM on August 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


Me, too. If you want a "creative, original" name, change your own damn name instead inflicting that nonsense on your kids.

You know, every single person I know that goes by something other than their first name because they hate it, has a pretty common first name. The people I know with uncommon or unique names are generally proud of them.

"parents should be able to name their kids whatever they want " goes right along with "parents shouldn't have to educate those kids they own if they don't want to" in that pile of backwards ass arguments I disagree with.

I know tons of people who don't go by their given name. It's relatively easy to change, even changing it legally isn't a huge hassle. Not being given an education growing up? Impossible to change.

Plus, and this is huge, who gets to decide what's an acceptable name and what's not? Historically, the practice of changing names to ones that fit the dominate culture has been part of efforts to wipe out other cultures, break slaves, and other really nasty things. Personally, I'll err on the side of the occasional name that makes me cringe and a wide diversity in naming traditions. Naming is an important way to create a sense of community, history, and family. Comparing making an effort to respect other people's traditions and choices in that regard to believing that it's o.k. to deny your kid a basic education is just plain insulting.
posted by Gygesringtone at 9:58 AM on August 19, 2013 [14 favorites]


If you look at Tennesse's most popular names last year, there are loads of them that are simply made up. Kayden, Jaxson, Jaxon, Rylee.

What, no Jaxxon?
posted by The Tensor at 10:01 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, we need to go back to good old traditional no-nonsense names like Æþelwulf and Swæfberht.

Or "Unless-Jesus-Christ-Had-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned".

Traditionally, surnames tended to be stuff like FatherSon or Tradename or OfAPlace, right?

In most of continental Europe, yes, but the whole concept of a surname is not a given. Pre-Norman Conquest, for example, the Anglo Saxons generally only used a given name and did not have inherited last names. What we would think of as a surname was just a way to distinguish one person with a particular given name from another. So for "Æðelbert Oddan sunu", the "Oddan sunu" (Odda's son) was just a way to tell him apart from "Æðelbert se Éadiga" ("the fair") or whatever, not actually part of his name the way we would think of it. The person's name was just Æðelbert.
posted by jedicus at 10:03 AM on August 19, 2013 [15 favorites]


Did your parents choose your MeFi username for you?

Yes.
posted by mikelieman at 10:05 AM on August 19, 2013 [18 favorites]


Yeah, physical description/characteristic "last names" are the best, imo.
posted by elizardbits at 10:06 AM on August 19, 2013


What, no Jaxxon?

Jaxxon is a name that has only been earned by one quick-witted Lepi smuggler from Coachelle Prime.
posted by mochapickle at 10:10 AM on August 19, 2013


Yeah, physical description/characteristic "last names" are the best, imo.

This morning I woke up with a new name. Jalliah Zitonnose.
posted by Jalliah at 10:10 AM on August 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


Also, I refute the judge's argument thus: compare Caesar (the title) and Caesar (the given name). And there's far more evidence that actual people with the title Caesar existed, historically, than that Jesus of Nazareth did (and who didn't even get the title Christ until decades after his death).
posted by jedicus at 10:12 AM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Creative, original" !=terrible or nonsense.

Creative and original was in a scare quotes not actual quotes.

What's so earth-shatteringly "creative, original" about Messiah? It's thousands of years old. Hardly earth-shattering.

I was talking about this situation in general, not about Messiah specifically. About Messiah specifically, yes it's thousand of years old, but it's a title not a name. Does it have a long history of being used as a name? I think naming your kid "Anointed" or "Anointed One" is lame too.
posted by nooneyouknow at 10:12 AM on August 19, 2013


Because so many of us above have determined some names are improper bearers of the potential of those howsoever named, let's also prohibit names which may be used against people as they integrate into the societies of these United States.

Male children should not ever have names such as "Ashley", "Lesley", or "Quinn", while females should never have names such as "Ryan", "Charlie", or "Chris".

Also, people should not have names which may subject them to taunting or mispronunciation including, but not limited to, names such as "Chang", "Zhang", "Mbebe", "Manho", and "Gaylord". Any adults with such names shall be erenamed "John" or "Jane" depending on their gender, of which there are only two.

People with unusual non-Anglo surnames, or no surname at all, shall have "Johnson" as a replacement.

Once this important work has been done and future lineages are protected from cultural degradation and individuals are saved from decades of mockery, we can begin the secondary work of sending these people back where they came from.
posted by mistersquid at 10:13 AM on August 19, 2013 [13 favorites]


And, I mean, if we're banning names based on the argument that only one person in the bible is called that, forget it.

Well, this is the reason why no one ever names their kid Nimrod.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:16 AM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, people should not have names which may subject them to taunting [...]

People with unusual non-Anglo surnames, or no surname at all, shall have "Johnson" as a replacement.


Um...
posted by Sys Rq at 10:20 AM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, physical description/characteristic "last names" are the best, imo.

"Okay, based on the court paperwork here, you don't have a last name. You want to take care of that right now?"
"Sure."
"Ok, any particularly notable geologic features where you're from?"
"There's some mountains."
"Mountains, good. What color?"
"Reddish-pink."
"Rosenberg. NEXT!"
posted by griphus at 10:23 AM on August 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


"The word Messiah is a title and it's a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ," Judge Ballew said.

Certain Chabad Hasidim would like a word with Judge Ballew. And a whole bunch of other people besides.
posted by jedicus at 10:23 AM on August 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


Well, this is the reason why no one ever names their kid Nimrod.

Israelis do! I guess they don't get Looney Tunes over there.
posted by griphus at 10:23 AM on August 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Shit, in Israel I made friends with a guy named Dudu. When we were first introduced, he said. "You're American, right?" I asked how he had guessed.

"When you first heard my name you were trying hard not to laugh."
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 10:28 AM on August 19, 2013 [16 favorites]


There was a Judge in Milwaukee decades back named Christ Seraphim....

Now that I think about it, he was a pretty big jerk -- groping women in elevators, for example -- so his nickname could have been "what an asshole."
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:34 AM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm definitely sending this kid some frankincense and myrrh.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:39 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, why didn't you say? He's over there. Sorry the place is a...bit of a mess. Well, what is myrrh anyway?
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 10:40 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]




Well, what is myrrh anyway?

Mostly a perfume. Which makes it a step above frankincense, which, apparently, was largely used to make funeral pyres smell nicer. And may have contributed to the wealth of Ubar, back when there was an Ubar.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:44 AM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Creative and original was in a scare quotes not actual quotes.

Okay. Still not helpful, since I still can't parse what you mean by creative or original, with or without scare quotes.
posted by rtha at 10:45 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I will be naming my first born X-Wing but I'll have to move to a jurisdiction that isn't so pro-empire.
posted by cmfletcher at 10:45 AM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


In France they have an Official Government List of names. Brittany is in France but many Breton do not like France. A noted Breton nationalist and his wife wanted to name their daughter 'Prunelle' a very traditional Breton name. It's not on the list. They sued and lost.
Not sure how these days it applies to Muslims.
My grandmother knew an Algerian guy with 'Paul' as a given name. This happened because he was born in France, not Algeria.
The special list dates back to Napoleon's time.
In Muslim countries you aren't supposed to give your child a name with an infamous meaning, or a name honoring some god other than Allah.
You can get creative after that.
I have seen a lot of odd spellings of names and its by no means exclusively a Black thing.
I don't see why it has to be a huge deal.
A judge doesn't belong in that decision.
Not does the apparatus of the State.
In Bulgaria, under Communism they forced name-change on all the Muslims. Even Stalin didn't do that!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:48 AM on August 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Myrrh is a Russian space station. Frankincense was the name of a doctor who dabbled in resurrection.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:56 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ms. Jaleesa Martin should not rename her son as a retaliatory move.

Also, she needs herself to be renamed "Jane".
posted by mistersquid at 10:57 AM on August 19, 2013


Look one of our top baby names includes "Stardust" and I know that's a name given only to one man, the prophet Ziggy, who saw the coming of the infinites and committed rock and roll suicide so that he could transcend mortal flesh, but I just can't get over how adorable it will be to sing "Lady Stardust" to our little goober of a kid while freaking out all of our square relatives.

Also I can rest assured knowing a judge won't change our kid's name because, you know, we're white and all.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:59 AM on August 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


freaking out all of our square relatives.

You're a couple of kooks, eh?
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 11:05 AM on August 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Insubordinate… and churlish.

That was a fantastic dramatization of what happened out in Tennessee and (to some extent) what's going on in this thread, Blasdelb.
posted by mistersquid at 11:06 AM on August 19, 2013


boo_radley: " Huh. I figured you went to wikipedia for that,

Heh, nope. One of my friend's daughters has a middle name of Regan. Her parents talked about the etymology of her name at her baby naming party recently and that part stuck in my brain because they BOTH mispronounced Riagán during the explanation and were corrected by the mom's (Irish) grandfather. Who then asked all of us to say it properly. Gotta love proud grandmothers. :)

...and I thought, "hey, why not". So here: the surname Regan, which is derived from Ó Ríagáin, meaning "descendant of Riagán" . So using Riagán (Reagan) as a surname is less correct than using it as a given name! What a strange and terrible world we live in."

:)
posted by zarq at 11:09 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mildly relevant: A few weeks ago, I learned that "Joshua" is an English translation of "Jesus".


Kind of. "Jesus" is the Latin version of the Greek version of a shorted version of the Hebrew name that is commonly rendered in English as "Joshua". If you wanted to be more Anglo than Latinate about the whole thing, you could refer to the carpenter from Nazareth as "Josh".
posted by mr_roboto at 11:09 AM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


...and thus the giant donut is complete.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 11:14 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hope that she can fight this, it's nonsense.
posted by windykites at 11:21 AM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Can I still name my kid Unless-Jesus-Christ-Had-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned?
posted by Flunkie at 11:25 AM on August 19, 2013


> "Jesus" is the Latin version of the Greek version of a shorted version of the Hebrew name that is commonly rendered in English as "Joshua".

Just to spell it out: the actual Hebrew name is Yehoshu'a (יהושע, "Yahweh is salvation").
posted by languagehat at 11:26 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


At the California Aerospace Museum, there's a memorial plaque which was donated by King Husein. Not King Hussein of Jordan, just some guy whose last name is Husein and first name happens to be King.
posted by ckape at 11:28 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


My wife and I used to work in the membership department of a very large health insurer. My wife used to have a list of a few legal pages of names that brought the department to tears. But anyway creative spellings are a nightmare that you will pay for your entire life. My mom gave my name a slight twist and I have been spelling the goddamn thing out for people since I could recite the letters. It fucks up the system in insurance, government files, school, you name it. And don't get me started on people who are the II., III., or god forbid IV. There's a nightmare in the SS system waiting to happen.

I live out in the sticks in a red state and let's say we have folks that are "less sophisticated". You know, rednecks. And their naming conventions, or lack thereof, are possibly worse than any stereotypical African American name. Each and every redneck maternal unit I have known thinks that precious snowflake's name is quite original. Each and every precious snowflake is branded from the wrong side of the tracks as soon as they hit the school system. It's not fair but what the hell in life is?
posted by Ber at 11:31 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree with the judge for entirely different (and more right) reasons. Parents just do not anticipate the impact of the diminutive on a kid. What will that kid actually be called? Mess? Messy? Years of therapy there, expensive!
posted by sammyo at 11:37 AM on August 19, 2013


Each and every redneck maternal unit I have known thinks that precious snowflake's name is quite original

Hence, Renessmee.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:43 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Patrice O'Neal discusses names.
posted by clorox at 11:46 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


When my in-laws wanted a religious name, I named my daughter Smite-the-Unbeliever-With-Cunning-Arguments.
posted by ersatz at 11:46 AM on August 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


Doesn't have in-laws or a daughter.
posted by ersatz at 11:46 AM on August 19, 2013


Comparing making an effort to respect other people's traditions and choices in that regard to believing that it's o.k. to deny your kid a basic education is just plain insulting.

I'm sorry you feel insulted, but it's a pretty simple comparison between two acts that both take the view that the parent has full rights over the child, and the child has no independent 'best interest'. Educating children against their parents desires also has some pretty strong roots in cultural genocide and is still a fairly controversial issue (see Native Americans and Aboriginals at boarding schools, teaching creationism, teaching children in English instead of their native language) so it's a little naive of you to pretend that it's an unambiguous good with no cultural impact just because you think it's an overall good thing.
posted by jacalata at 12:13 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


What, no Jaxxon?

No Xmus Jaxon Waxon Flaxon, either.

damn, now I have that whole Key and Peele skit running through my head.
posted by bibliowench at 12:15 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Me, too. If you want a "creative, original" name, change your own damn name instead inflicting that nonsense on your kids.

Are you going to be in charge of the Bureau of Appropriate Names? Can you insure that your decisions are not biased by racism, sexism, or fear of new things?

I can see some names being changed for being harmful, like Adolf Hitler Jones, or Sh*thead or something, there are some idiots who would do that to their kids. But Neveah or Messiah or Jaxxon or N'Shandra aren't words with negative or harmful connotations. Or Renessmee or wtf ever that name is.

You know, when you diss stupid rednecks and their stupid names, you're missing something. Naming a child is often one of the few creative acts a lot of people allow themselves (I would put Christmas lawn decorations in this category as well). There's this little bundle of potential in the world, and parents can't really help putting all their hopes and dreams on it. So they dream up a name they think is pretty or interesting or will make this child seem special.

You're also dissing my family, full of unheard-of names (Runelle, Ida, Ora, Eula, Clifton, Foy, Ola Mae) that would sound unbearably "country" to us, but they were names the parents took pride in bestowing.
posted by emjaybee at 12:24 PM on August 19, 2013 [15 favorites]


Word. Also, these things change? When I was named "Phoebe" it was a practically unheard of, unpronounceable, unspellable name. And now it's on the cusp of top 300 most popular in the US. Thanks, Friends, for both normalizing my name and making it unremarkable!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:27 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


A couple hundred years ago, all the Jedidiahs and Patience-es would have looked at us like we were INSANE for half of the perfectly goddamn common names we use today. They would also be very confused by our lack of bustles and man-leggings.

Change happens, it would only be remarkable if names DIDN'T change. This has happened from the beginning of recorded history and will continue to happen until the sun explodes. But if it's poor and/or black people making the changes? Suddenly it's "trashy." "Ghetto." "Tacky."

I just seriously cannot give a big enough FUCK YOU to that.

And, PS: the "I'm not racist but other people will see the name and make assumptions" thing? Other people will see the SKIN and make assumptions too. But non-white people still get to exist, and erasing their names doesn't change a damn thing about the discrimination they face.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:35 PM on August 19, 2013 [11 favorites]


Yeah, my name is unremarkable in the state where I was born and lived my first 10 years; caused me endless spelling trouble and "weird name" stuff when I lived on the East coast; and is pretty unremarkable again now that I'm on the West coast.
posted by rtha at 12:36 PM on August 19, 2013


My parents decided to give me an amazingly trendy name, spell it wrong, and make it my middle name (but never use my first - which they also spelled unconventionally). I never know what name to give people, and I always sound evasive when I ask them to try another name or another spelling if I'm supposed to be on a list.

I ended up giving my children resoundingly common names because I did not want them to dread the question "What is your name?" as much as I do.

That's not to say that unconventional names are bad, but fuck if they can't be a pain in the ass.
posted by bibliowench at 12:45 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


In Australia, non-ASCII characters are illegal in names; hence, there are no Australian Zoës or Chloës, only Zoes and Chloes.

Not sure if the UK has the same laws.
posted by acb at 12:46 PM on August 19, 2013


They would also be very confused by our lack of bustles and man-leggings.

Butt implants and skinny jeans though.
posted by elizardbits at 12:47 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you look at Tennesse's most popular names last year, there are loads of them that are simply made up. Kayden, Jaxson, Jaxon, Rylee

Aren't those fairly standard names with unusual spellings?

Male children should not ever have names such as "Ashley", "Lesley", or "Quinn"

Does Jaime go to the girls or to the boys?
posted by jeather at 12:51 PM on August 19, 2013


acb: "In Australia, non-ASCII characters are illegal in names; hence, there are no Australian Zoës or Chloës, only Zoes and Chloes."

are you saying non-ascii characters make Australians a little ... ANSI?
posted by boo_radley at 12:53 PM on August 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


My name is fewer than five letters long and has been in the top 400 most popular names in the US every year for the last 100 years, including about a decade in the top 10. The most common alternative spelling has never cracked the top 100 and has frequently fallen out of the top 1000. In other words, my parents spelled it "right," and only a much smaller number of people are spelling it "wrong."

I still have to spell it every time I give it to someone, because there are other ways of spelling it. Those of you with unusual name spellings, your parents didn't just ruin it for you; they also ruined it for all those of us who have your name, but whose parents spelled it correctly. If I name my kid Jonathan, but there are other folks naming their kids Jonnathon and Johnathagn and Jaunithian, my kid is going to have to spell his name to make sure it's not spelled wrong. Every time.

In other words, we should all just get used to spelling our names every time we give them, because that's the future. That's what it means to live in a society where people have different religions and nationalities and cultural heritage and accents and aesthetic preferences. And that kind of society is a good thing. Spelling out my name a few times a week is a price I'm absolutely willing to pay to get to hang out with cool people.
posted by decathecting at 12:53 PM on August 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


In Australia, non-ASCII characters are illegal in names; hence, there are no Australian Zoës or Chloës, only Zoes and Chloes.

I (in the US) named my kid Zoe with a regular "e" to avoid this sort of nonsense; I figure if later in life she wants to put dots above the "e" informally no one will really care!
posted by mikepop at 12:55 PM on August 19, 2013


This is pointless bullshit, and the judge abused the authority of her office.
posted by desuetude at 12:56 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


If I ever have a son, I am so naming him Johnathagn or maybe Joh'nathagn. Of course, I am going to a Lovecraft convention this week....
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:04 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


> Does Jaime go to the girls or to the boys?

Well I grew up quick and I grew up mean
posted by bukvich at 1:05 PM on August 19, 2013


What's ironic here is that this is exactly how people in the Bible named their kids. Yitzhak (Isaac) -> "Helaughs," Samuel -> "Godhasheard," etc. It's as old or older than anything else in the Western tradition.
posted by ostro at 1:13 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


If Messiah is not allowed for a name, the proper back-up choice is Muad'dib. It even starts with the same letter.
posted by ckape at 1:15 PM on August 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


Perhaps the judge hoped to get little Messiah through grade school unscathed.
posted by Cranberry at 1:17 PM on August 19, 2013


So we have to stop coming up with new names in 2013, when people have been inventing names for the entirety of human history, because?

Considering how many names are really just words for "strong," "rock," "sorrow," "like god," "god said so," or whatever, it's not like they should really count anyway. I mean, if English isn't good enough for you, why do you you live in America, huh? Would it be so hard to rename "John Smith" "Graced-by-Yaweh Worker-in-Metal?" That would sure make things easier than all these foreign names.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:20 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


We're all just numbers in the Not For Identification Purposes database anyway. We should all just use those.
posted by maxwelton at 2:03 PM on August 19, 2013


New Zealand children have been given names such as Number 16 Bus Shelter, Violence and Benson and Hedges(twins).

But other names, including Fish and Chips, Yeah Detroit, Stallion, Twisty Poi, Keenan Got Lucy and Sex Fruit, have been blocked by registration officials.

The revelations came during written findings by Family Court Judge Murfitt, who ordered a girl be put in court guardianship so her name - Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii - could be changed.


On the flipside some friends had the last name Angel and they called their kid Jackson. Middle name? Danger.

JACKSON DANGER ANGEL.

Just let your mind sit back on that one for a while, we'll wait.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:09 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


My go-to awesome potential name is Spartacus Wizardsleeve Pantaloons so I clearly cannot comment.
posted by elizardbits at 2:33 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am totally in agreement with the judge. Naming a child "Messiah" is waaaaaaaaaay too much pressure to put on a kid.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:45 PM on August 19, 2013


JACKSON DANGER ANGEL.
Just let your mind sit back on that one for a while, we'll wait.


OK, I give up.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:53 PM on August 19, 2013


The word Messiah is a title and it's a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ," Judge Ballew said.

Well, that's actually a very funny thing to say because lots of people in the Bible had that title. All Jewish kings (and at least one who wasn't Jewish) and high priests and I don't know who else were anointed, which is what the title "Messiah" (Heb: mashiach) means.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:24 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, here's a really funny and exciting bit of guerrilla anointing! Boo Joram and the house of Ahab! Yay Jehu! Down with the whoredoms of Jezebel! Context.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:32 PM on August 19, 2013


"[F]uc[k] up the system"
This is a bad thing because why?
Also, anglocentric, money-as-god's-consent culture's forebears include people with names like "Increase" !
posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 3:33 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


The judge went beyond her authority here. Her religious beliefs should never enter into the decisions she makes as a judge. Simple as that.

jenfullmoon, I understand your sentiment, but the naming of the child is the parent's responsibility. The parents here made the choice to saddle their child with a name that many will consider outlandish, and the kid will have to deal with it. Which sucks, unless they won the Universal Lottery or something. But the judge stepped over the line, IMO.
posted by wallabear at 3:34 PM on August 19, 2013


Mochapickle, that, for me, is the crux (pun intended) of the matter: as The Silver Jews sang, the United States is full of "suburban kids with Biblical names". What is already an odd transhistorical, transnational naming fluke is ignored in the service of discrimination and cultural policing.

Mainstream culture seems to want it both ways when it comes to freedom. I mean, yes, we have a supposedly secular government but it grew out of/ was constructed from specific Western European traditions. How many cows would officials like the judge in this case have if tomorrow all names with Christian religious affiliations were outlawed? Start saying goodbye to anyplace with "Saint" in it, for a start.
posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 3:46 PM on August 19, 2013


Damn activist judges keeping us from the Saggitariutt Jefferspins of the world
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 4:32 PM on August 19, 2013


Interesting. Despite the number of posts on bullying here in the Blue, in all the comments made on this post, I haven't seen one that discusses how kids are bullied and tortured about their common names, let alone uncommon names.

I was given the feminine form of my father's name, occasionally used in other countries, but at the time I was growing up, seldom heard in the U.S. I was teased unmercifully. It's pretty common to hear it now, but was so rare then that I used to ask women with the same name how they came by that name. Several were of Italian heritage, and the strangest was one gal named after the sinking of a ship that a beloved aunt had survived.* We sympathized with each other over our "misfortune" when we were young.

I was proud that I was named after my dad, and I love my name, but little assholes will be little assholes no matter what generation apparently, as my daughter was teased even with her extremely common name.

Was no one else here teased based on their name, or am I the only one lucky enough?

*No her/my name isn't Titania.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:52 PM on August 19, 2013


A "normal" name is not some sort of magical anti-bullying shield. For example my name is Elizabeth, as normal and boring and Biblical a name as you could possibly desire. But I still got called "lizard." I also got called "green undies" because of That Incident That One Time. I got called "bitch," too.

Anyway, if bullying is the concern, shouldn't we turn our efforts to addressing the root causes of bullying, rather than fearfully naming every single person on earth Anne out of some sense that it will protect them from the world?
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:59 PM on August 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yeah, to echo showbiz_liz, common names are no protection from teasing. I have possibly the most boring, least-messed-with name in existence, and the bullies in my grade eight class just resorted to calling me "shithead".
posted by LN at 5:02 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have one of those either-sex names, and always got the "that's a girls name!" shit in elementary school. Ya can't win that one.

(I still get asked to clarify the last vowel on the phone: Is that a Y or an I? My quite male voice wants to tell you that if you use "i" be sure to make the dot a big circle.)
posted by wallabear at 5:11 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Damn activist judges keeping us from the Saggitariutt Jefferspins of the world

The thing about that sketch is that it would work just as well with a whole lot of BYU students and one black guy. 'Cause, seriously, Mormon names, oh my goodness.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:13 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Are you going to be in charge of the Bureau of Appropriate Names?
Hell, yeah.

Can you insure that your decisions are not biased by racism, sexism, or fear of new things?
Probably not 100%, but that's why there would be guidelines and an appeal process in this fictional world where I am the head of the Bureau of Appropriate Names.

You know, when you diss stupid rednecks and their stupid names,
I never said anything about rednecks.
posted by nooneyouknow at 5:32 PM on August 19, 2013


Jesus is a name (a fairly common name even around 5 BC) while Christ is a title.

I'll let my brother Christopher know that the first half of his first name is not OK.
posted by John Cohen at 5:35 PM on August 19, 2013


If you look at Tennesse's most popular names last year, there are loads of them that are simply made up.

You mean "recently made up." Every name is made up.
posted by John Cohen at 5:38 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


boo_radley: "mochapickle: "There are a heck of a lot of girls named Reagan. I don't mean to be ignant on the internet, but I do not get that name."

The word Reagan is a title and it's a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Ronald Reagan
posted by Red Loop at 5:40 PM on August 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


Are you going to be in charge of the Bureau of Appropriate Names?
Hell, yeah.

Can you insure that your decisions are not biased by racism, sexism, or fear of new things?
Probably not 100%, but that's why there would be guidelines and an appeal process in this fictional world where I am the head of the Bureau of Appropriate Names.


But why? WHY? What's the point of this? Do you think we're in some filthy age of reckless stupidnaming that the world has never seen? To me this is like saying you'd like there to be a bureau to decide which art is appropriate to make. And of course, oh, there'd be an APPEALS process- yes, let people work to prove that their children's names are up to YOUR EXACTING STANDARDS, which are of course in no way based on your race, class, age, social circles, and location in space and time. No, you're Smart and other people are Dumb and they Must Be Stopped.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:41 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


But why? WHY? What's the point of this? Do you think we're in some filthy age of reckless stupidnaming that the world has never seen? To me this is like saying you'd like there to be a bureau to decide which art is appropriate to make.

Why do we have CPS departments, are we in some filthy age of reckless beatingyourchildren that the world has never seen?

Can everyone in this thread who thinks there is no way anyone should be able to overrule a parents name for their child just mention whether they would perhaps be upset for a kid named 'fucking shitforbrains', or do you literally see no name as inappropriate?
posted by jacalata at 6:03 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can everyone in this thread who thinks there is no way anyone should be able to overrule a parents name for their child just mention whether they would perhaps be upset for a kid named 'fucking shitforbrains', or do you literally see no name as inappropriate?

Yes, could all you imaginary people saying imaginary things please comment on this imaginary scenario?
posted by Sys Rq at 6:05 PM on August 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


You can't name a kid "Messiah"?

There's at least one "God" out there. So there is, y'know, a precedent and all.
posted by jason's_planet at 6:07 PM on August 19, 2013


But I still got called "lizard."

HAY
posted by elizardbits at 6:10 PM on August 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


To me this is like saying you'd like there to be a bureau to decide which art is appropriate to make.

When you make art, it may or may not endure depending on how interested other people are in it. You're usually not forcing other people to look at or listen to your art. Or even if you are forcing them to do that, it's only for a moment. When you name a baby, that baby has no choice in the matter, and the name is stuck to them — not in an absolutely irrevocable way, but in a way that's close enough to permanent that it's very difficult to undo.

I'm generally in favor of trying to maximize freedom for everyone. But that gets complicated when you're talking about the freedom of adults to do stuff to children. How do you decide when one person's freedom trumps another person's?

I don't think it's necessarily wrong to name a baby Messiah. It's not that different from naming a baby Jesus or Angel or Heaven. Sure, maybe you can find a shade of a difference, but it would be a fairly subtle distinction. I'm not religious, so those names don't interest me — but not everyone is like me. If some people feel strongly about Jesus or angels and want to name their kids after them, I don't see any basis for stopping them. I can accept that as part of society, even if I can't completely relate to it.

Calling a baby Adolph Hitler is wildly different. That's severe child abuse that will presumably scar the kid for life. Yes, he can legally change it eventually, but not before a lot of damage is done. And I think the government should stop adults from abusing children.
posted by John Cohen at 6:13 PM on August 19, 2013


Why do we have CPS departments, are we in some filthy age of reckless beatingyourchildren that the world has never seen?

Can everyone in this thread who thinks there is no way anyone should be able to overrule a parents name for their child just mention whether they would perhaps be upset for a kid named 'fucking shitforbrains', or do you literally see no name as inappropriate?


Can you honestly and in good faith imagine a scenario where the parents named the kid that, and were otherwise decent parents? Because if you remember the Hitler kid, he was taken away from his parents due to their abusiveness and neglect. Yes, I think that anything a competent and loving parent would ACTUALLY name their kid is fine. I also think comparing a unique name to child abuse is a completely false comparison. WE HAVE NOT BEEN NAMED THE EXACT SAME THINGS SINCE TIME BEGAN, how is this so hard to grasp? A name is not abuse.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:21 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry you feel insulted, but it's a pretty simple comparison between two acts that both take the view that the parent has full rights over the child, and the child has no independent 'best interest'.

Not really no. We as a society have said the parents have certain responsibilities towards their kids. It's illegal for me to not provide food for my kids, or to neglect them in many ways. For example, I'm required to provide my child an education. Now, as part of those requirements I have to fill out certain forms for the government, and on those forms they require me to put the kid's name. So, I have a duty, as my child's custodian (not owner, but caretaker) to provide them with a name, just like I have one to feed them. So no, the fact that parents name their kids doesn't really rely on the idea that parents own their kids.

So you're comparing people fulfilling legal obligations in a way that displeases you to them neglecting their duty to the child.
posted by Gygesringtone at 6:23 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, because "we as a society" have also decided that parents need to name their children something from a set list, or sufficiently obvious, for various contemporary values of we. And people come here and argue that it is terrible to have such laws, so we're clearly not arguing that The Law Is The Law and anything within it is ok or vice versa.
posted by jacalata at 6:32 PM on August 19, 2013


And ok, instead of my (hyperbolic) example, how about aguidhbeheoqvqhwjdiof9272647949, or whatever the Swedish one was? There's no reason for anybody to interfere with that name?
posted by jacalata at 6:35 PM on August 19, 2013


No, because "we as a society" have also decided that parents need to name their children something from a set list, or sufficiently obvious, for various contemporary values of we. And people come here and argue that it is terrible to have such laws, so we're clearly not arguing that The Law Is The Law and anything within it is ok or vice versa.

When, until recently, has this actually been the case? When has the government tried to stop people from naming their children anything they wanted to, until recently? That's not just "how it is," it's a form of social control, and I see absolutely no reason why the government should have a stake in something so personal. If we did things your way, no one would ever have been able to name their baby Daisy. What, a FLOWER, how tacky! Stick to the Bible. My little cousin Jacqueline? You can't give a girl a girlied-up boy's name! Stick to Jane! And forget about my other cousin, Aeolin, whose parents wanted to name her a feminized version of Aeolus, god of the wind. What's THAT hippie-dippie nonsense about? Call her Sarah and stop fucking around, you abusive monster!

And ok, instead of my (hyperbolic) example, how about aguidhbeheoqvqhwjdiof9272647949, or whatever the Swedish one was? There's no reason for anybody to interfere with that name?

That name was specifically submitted as a protest against the naming law. But, you know what? WHY NOT? Honestly. We let people raise their kids on farms, in communes, on houseboats, in massive cities and deserted plains, we let people raise their kids in any weird and crazy way they want unless we have evidence they're being harmed. So why the fuck not?
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:44 PM on August 19, 2013


And on rereading the thread, I see that in fact all the most extreme comments were from one user, so mine was an excessively general response. And even there it has been walked back to "only a bad parent would give kids really bad names so we don't need to consider that!"
so I guess I have a pretty safe response that everybody agrees that yes, its possible that a parent could give their child a name which was unacceptable, and there should exist a legal option to have it changed, but people are really worried about how this power could be misused to crush cultures or be racist.
posted by jacalata at 6:50 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


so I guess I have a pretty safe response that everybody agrees that yes, its possible that a parent could give their child a name which was unacceptable, and there should exist a legal option to have it changed, but people are really worried about how this power could be misused to crush cultures or be racist.

It seems like a lot of the countries with naming laws actually restrict parents to a government-approved list of names or otherwise require approval of a government official to name a kid anything. That, to me, is total madness. The laws that say "you can't name your child anything 'offensive' " but don't specify what's offensive? Well... I can't think of a single example in history of a broadly-drawn law that restricted some personal freedom, which wasn't eventually abused and overused. Take obscenity laws. "I know a bad name when I see it"? It's just not worth it, in my opinion. How many examples of TRULY damaging names (like Hitler) do we have, compared to the tens of thousands of unique names that are perfectly nice names, but which the establishment tuts at and calls trashy or ghetto or classless? I don't want the government to have to power to tell all those people, no, you HAVE TO name your child x y or z.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:57 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Heh. Synchronicity: The city of Brussels refused to register the name of a locally born Israeli baby because Jerusalem does not appear on a list of approved names for children born in the country.

If you read down it actually says that the clerk wanted evidence that it was a valid name in Israel, but oh, the outrage in the headline.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:30 PM on August 19, 2013


No, actually. The surname was originally derived from a personal name, Riagán.

Which is an explicitly male personal name. So it still makes no sense to call a girl Reagan.
posted by fshgrl at 11:13 PM on August 19, 2013


Shirley used to be a boy's name until Emily Brontë's 1849 novel Shirley. Its death knell as a boy's name was the arrival of Shirley Temple. Britain's most famous wrestler, Big Daddy, born in 1930, was christened Shirley.

By the early 20th Century Shirley was fast becoming a popular name for girls. In 1913 it ranked #169. By 1927, the year before Shirley Temple was born, it was the ninth most popular name for girls in the US. With the exception of 1930 (#11) it remained in the top 10 most popular girl's names until 1941, peaking at #2 in 1935, the year after Shirley Temple found fame in the movies Curly Top and Heidi. It remained in the top 100 most popular name for girls until 1963 and in the top 200 until 1971. It currently dips in and out of the top 1,000 names for girls.

In 1935, Shirley peaked in the US rankings as a boy's name at #259. A decade later it was #497. By 1955 it had dropped out of the top 1,000 names altogether.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:18 AM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


showbiz_liz: "It seems like a lot of the countries with naming laws actually restrict parents to a government-approved list of names or otherwise require approval of a government official to name a kid anything. That, to me, is total madness."
Conversely, there are a lot of American laws that we find to be total madness. Welcome to the world.
posted by brokkr at 2:34 AM on August 20, 2013


By the way, the article's assertion that Danes must choose from a list of 7000 names is quite outdated. The latest updated list has 27,720 names, including classic Danish staples such as Abieyuwa, Abulfazal, Faizyana, Quetzalcoatl, Wshyar and Xiangxiu.

(In fact, at a glance the list seems to contain about 80% non-traditionally-Danish names.)

Danish Act on Names:
Names that will be approved upon application are names that:
(i) are proper first names,
(ii) are not unsuitable for use as a first name in Denmark, and
(iii) are not inappropriate and that will not cause offence.
posted by brokkr at 2:45 AM on August 20, 2013


But what is "proper" or "not unsuitable"? At least "not inappropriate and that will not cause offence" provides some insight, but (i) and (ii) are in the I-know-it-when-I-see-it category.
posted by moody cow at 3:35 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


If your application for a new first name is rejected, you can appeal to the National Social Appeals Board which will hear arguments from both sides.

(From the appeal instructions: "It is not a requirement to substantiate your appeal, but it might be a good idea to describe what you are unsatisfied with.")
posted by brokkr at 5:06 AM on August 20, 2013


Why shouldn't the onus be on the state to substantiate that a name is "unsuitable" or "inappropriate" to begin with?
posted by moody cow at 5:33 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's what the state does when it first rejects your application.

We have a list of names we've already agreed are perfectly cromulent. If you want to use a name that's not on the list, you send in an application. The name will either be added or rejected for some reason, which we'll tell you. Then you can change your mind or appeal.

As for the claim that this is racist subjugation, then looking at the list of names approved so far in 2013 looks to me to be 5% spelling variations of existing, approved names (Gabbriel, Alexaander), 5% conglomerates of normally hyphenated names (Lykkemai, Nynneliza) and 90% non-ethnically-Danish names (Stacy, Ruqia, Nasrodin, Ilkay, Nadezhda). So it doesn't seem to me that it's necessarily a problem to have a list of approved names, but it is definitely a problem to have an idiot administer it (to get back on track with the OP).
posted by brokkr at 6:34 AM on August 20, 2013


We have a list of names we've already agreed are perfectly cromulent. If you want to use a name that's not on the list, you send in an application. The name will either be added or rejected for some reason, which we'll tell you. Then you can change your mind or appeal.

I really just do not see the point. How much does this Bureau of Oh I GUESS Your Name Is Ok, Upon Reflection cost?And what good does it do? Who, honestly, does it ACTUALLY help?
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:50 AM on August 20, 2013


OK, let me rephrase, why have a list in the first place? The criteria you quoted are beyond vague.

Why should the onus be on the parents naming their children if that name is not on some random list assembled by the state? Why have this list in the first place?

Why shouldn't parents be allowed to name their children as they deem fit? And then, if someone other than the parents or the child finds it offensive, unsuitable or inappropriate, why shouldn't the burden be on them to raise objection and substantiate their claim?
posted by moody cow at 6:58 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


showbiz_liz: "How much does this Bureau of Oh I GUESS Your Name Is Ok, Upon Reflection cost?And what good does it do? Who, honestly, does it ACTUALLY help?"
No idea how much it costs, but it's part of a lot of other stuff these ministries do. I don't think there's anybody checking names full time. At any rate we're using magnitudes more public money on stuff that's actively harmful like helping you guys invade sovereign nations and stuff like that; this doesn't even begin to register.
And what good does it do?
It keeps kids from being named Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116.
Who, honestly, does it ACTUALLY help?
Kids who would otherwise have been named Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 and all those who have to interact with them.
posted by brokkr at 7:03 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


So it doesn't seem to me that it's necessarily a problem to have a list of approved names, but it is definitely a problem to have an idiot administer it (to get back on track with the OP).

Certainly it works in an 90% ethnically homogenous country of five million people where only a small (in percentage and population size) minority will ever need to have a name approved. I actually have this conversation with my Danish friends on a regular basis -- there's a lot of bureaucratic stuff which works fine in that setting and would be completely unworkable in the U.S.
posted by griphus at 7:05 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's clear, griphus. That doesn't necessarily mean the Danish system is a racist subjugation tool.
posted by brokkr at 7:06 AM on August 20, 2013


Unless you're from Greenland.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:09 AM on August 20, 2013


No, but it's absolutely a system meant for Danes with some accommodations made for non-Danes and people who don't want to continue the Danish tradition of names. It's inherently unworkable in a country composed of immigrants; having a list of "approved names" in New York City alone would mean having a list of every single name of every ethnicity.

Meanwhile, some backwards-ass city council in Tennessee will pass a law stating that no name that doesn't appear in the KJV is allowed and, there you go, one racist subjugation tool, signed, sealed and delivered.
posted by griphus at 7:12 AM on August 20, 2013


Ice Cream Socialist: "Unless you're from Greenland."
Nice try. There are plenty of Inuit names on the list, and nothing to indicate that new ones are being routinely rejected.
posted by brokkr at 7:14 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unless you're from Greenland.

Sorry about that, there's no excuse, that was ugly and stupid and I wish I wasn't such a dick.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:15 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


brokkr: "There are plenty of Inuit names on the list.
posted by brokkr at 0:14 on August 21 [+] [!] [quote]
"

Plenty, as in enough or all Inuit names?
posted by moody cow at 7:15 AM on August 20, 2013


Again, why a list? In this particular example, why not allow any Inuit name?
posted by moody cow at 7:24 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Which Inuit names are not on the list?
posted by brokkr at 7:25 AM on August 20, 2013


Any name that is not on the list.
posted by moody cow at 7:38 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


And what good does it do?

It keeps kids from being named Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116.


Ok, let's just for a moment pretend that that name WASN'T submitted as a protest against the naming law, with the full knowledge that it would not be approved, in order to draw attention to the laws. Let's pretend someone ACTUALLY wanted to name their kid that (I've never seen an example of such a name, but let's say there is one.)

I'm not joking when I say I DON'T ACTUALLY HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THIS. Do I think it would be completely stupid to do such a thing? Yes. Would I want the parents to be on the radar of CPS in case this was an indication of deeper problems? Yes. But, no, I truly do not believe that the government ought to have a stake in preventing parents from naming their children whatever damn fool name they like. I REALLY DON'T. Because it isn't abusive, and I see no legitimate government interest in interfering with child naming.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:50 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


@moody cow: That would be because it's either not a proper first name, not suitable for use as a first name in Denmark, or inappropriate and will cause offence. Or because no one yet felt the impetus to call their kid that.

I'm under no illusions that we did the Inuit any particular favour by colonizing Greenland; the amount of social problems there are staggering and we're clinging on to the Union for dear life to exploit their sweet natural resources. But I find it unconvincing to claim that having a gatekeeper function for first names is axiomatically a tool of oppression, as claimed upthread.

(Also, I'll note that the Danish Naming Act does not apply on Greenland.)
posted by brokkr at 7:52 AM on August 20, 2013


It's a good point guys, can you imagine if some 'abusive' parent got to name their boy some pussy name like "Marion"?
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:57 AM on August 20, 2013


showbiz_liz: "Would I want the parents to be on the radar of CPS in case this was an indication of deeper problems? Yes."
So you're against government interference in naming children, but you're okay with government monitoring people with the implied threat of removing their kids because they're protesting peacefully and legally against the current law?

I don't make any sense to you, and you don't make any sense to me. Have a nice day.
posted by brokkr at 7:59 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


So you're against government interference in naming children, but you're okay with government monitoring people with the implied threat of removing their kids because they're protesting peacefully and legally against the current law?

I don't make any sense to you, and you don't make any sense to me. Have a nice day.


Why, no. If they named a kid that NOT out of protest, then I'd want to keep an eye out for ACTUAL abuse. But I wouldn't simply assume it existed, because the naming itself would not be abusive.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:04 AM on August 20, 2013


I have mother fucking had it with the way people in this country dismiss and belittle black peoples' naming conventions. Oh, you can mock it because "it's made-up"? Fuck you. "Oh, we've completely erased your cultural heritage so you don't have a traditional naming system to use? Well you can't just MAKE UP A NAME (as if every name on Earth was not "made up" at some point)- here, just use a NORMAL (European, Christian, white) name like Sarah or Michael.

My African-from-Africa parents gave me a full-on, no-holds barred Yoruba name. Bank tellers and nurses in doctor's offices blush before they have to try to pronounce it. The first experience that I remember of racism in my life was a government employee suggesting that I change it, to "make it easier for everybody". Fuck that lady, I love my crazy african name, even if I use very shortened version of it in everyday life (causing all sorts of nickname/legal name confusion because it's not a Billy --> William conversion like Americans are used to).

But I have a huge problem with the peculiarly African-American tradition of making up African-ish names for their kids. It shows a lazy unwillingness to actually learn about the culture that they are trying to claim some connection to. It reflects poorly on the parents, and gives the children an unfair extra hurdle to jump as they go through life. And it's not just poor blacks who are guilty of that either. The whole Jayden/Rayden/Kaiylee/Jaxson epidemic is perpetuated by whites across the socioeconomic spectrum as well.

But, as much as I hate those names, I acknowledge that I have neither the power nor the right to try and stop them. Any kind of law or system that attempts to restrict what people are allowed to name their children is doomed to failure because of the inherent racism of assuming that anyone can come up with One List that is inclusive of all.

All that being said, Messiah is an awesome name. Easy to spell, evocative of the parents hopes and dreams for their child, steeped in history/culture. When I first heard of this case, I assumed it was some Lemonjello* type nonsense so I was pretty surprised that it was just a case of a judge letting her Christianist bigotry hang out for all to see.

*I understand the the Lemonjello/Oranjello thing is probably an urban legend
posted by sparklemotion at 8:38 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


But I have a huge problem with the peculiarly African-American tradition of making up African-ish names for their kids. It shows a lazy unwillingness to actually learn about the culture that they are trying to claim some connection to. It reflects poorly on the parents, and gives the children an unfair extra hurdle to jump as they go through life. And it's not just poor blacks who are guilty of that either. The whole Jayden/Rayden/Kaiylee/Jaxson epidemic is perpetuated by whites across the socioeconomic spectrum as well.

I 100% agree with the rest of your post, but this part, eh... I think it's less an unwillingness to learn and more that, well, most African Americans have ancestors from a lot of different areas of Africa, and might not actually know exactly where they came from. I think coining new names is a way of saying "I'm not a white American, and I'm not African either, I'm African American and that's its own thing." I imagine that's why, say, Mormon do it too.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:49 AM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard: "The judge's decision makes that clear, though. Jesus is a name (a fairly common name even around 5 BC) while Christ is a title."

John Cohen : " I'll let my brother Christopher know that the first half of his first name is not OK."

"Christopher" is fine; it means "Christ-bearer", which expands out to "bearer of the/an anointed one". So your brother might want to find someone who's been anointed and give them a piggyback ride, just to avoid any possible false advertisement, but the name Christopher is perfectly cromulent.
posted by Lexica at 6:01 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


My mom gave my name a slight twist and I have been spelling the goddamn thing out for people since I could recite the letters

Aye, but so does anyone called Cathryn, or Catherine, or Katharine, or Kathryn, and so on. My name has a variant spelling, one which is a lot less common here than in the US, but I still have to spell it out, if only because it's a pain in the arse to try and pronounce or spell if English isn't your first language. I'm not a fan of names like Mady-lei'anne, but many 'proper' or 'traditional' names have the spelling issue, and even more so if it's a non-WASP one. Irish names being a good example.

How do countries with prescribed lists operate when the child is from a different culture? I'm guessing Blessings, Mohammed or Eimear isn't on the French list.
posted by mippy at 7:46 AM on August 21, 2013


I ended up giving my children resoundingly common names because I did not want them to dread the question "What is your name?" as much as I do.

My given name is incredibly old-fashioned, and I probably won't ever use it. But I'm grateful to have it, should I ever need to pretend to be dignified. My sons also have pretty old-fashioned given names, but they use the diminutive forms.

That's not to say that unconventional names are bad, but fuck if they can't be a pain in the ass.

When the Monsters were wee, I chaperoned all of their field trips at school, and invariably got the kids with the complicated spellings in my group. Made roll call a gigantic pain, so if my list was full of unconventional spellings, I would rechristen the entire group. "OK, you guys, today you're all named George, because Miz B is too tired to figure out how to say your names. Let's give you numbers. George 1, George 2..."

The kids all thought it was great. A couple of Moms lectured me about the importance of their precious' "unique" name, though. No, darling, Thomas is not spelled Pthambhas, so today he is George.
posted by MissySedai at 9:19 AM on August 21, 2013


Decision overturned at the appeal hearing.

"Chancellor Telford E. Forgety overturned Ballew's decision, finding that she acted unconstitutionally. [...] Forgety said that there is no basis in the law for changing a child's first name where both parents are in agreement about it. He also said that Ballew's decision violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution."

The kid's adorable, btw.
posted by mochapickle at 6:55 PM on September 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


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