Now this is really stupid.
May 31, 2000 3:43 AM   Subscribe

Now this is really stupid.

14-year-old Francis Di Masi's petition to have his name legally changed to "Frank" because he gets teased mercilessly in school about it was rejected. The judge said in his decision that "Learning how to deal with these taunts [is] part of growing up."

My first name, family name and nicknames have always given other people trouble when it comes to spelling and pronounciation, so I know what it's like to grow up getting name-related grief every single day of your life; "tedious" doesn't even begin to describe it.

So while I don't think "Francis" is altogether a bad name, why shouldn't the kid get to legally call himself whatever he wants? I mean, if some moron can change his name to DotComGuy without a hitch, why not Frank?
posted by lia (21 comments total)
What a stupid ass judge. The kid had the solution right there. Wonder what he'll tell the next kid: "Hey, learn to like the taste of toilet water, getting dunked by bigger kids is part of growing up..."

Next year, when "Francis" and "Toilet Boy" open fire on their class with glocks and Mack-11's, hopefully the judge'll probably dismiss "taking out your graduating class" as a "part of growing up" too.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 5:36 AM on May 31, 2000

Ahhh.... So cultural purity requires that we preserve traditional names? I don't get it. What's the point? What planet is this judge living on?

I read a story a while back about how it was illegal in Germany to have certain names. A woman wanted to name her baby "flower" or something like that. But it was illegal and she wasn't allowed to do it.

Anyone know if things are the same in other countries? Anyone know what the deal is with this? I know we have many foreign members here. I can assure you that in the States we think this is so silly that it couldn't be true. I'd be interested in here some other perspectives.
posted by y6y6y6 at 7:55 AM on May 31, 2000

Francis is awful! I'd go by Frank too. Even thought it's not much of an improvement. ;-)
posted by FAB4GIRL at 9:27 AM on May 31, 2000

About the Germany thing, that's wacked. Let me call my kid whatever I want. About Francis, I agree with the judge. I mean come on, EVERYONE got picked on as a kid. Yes, some kids got teased more so than others. But that's part of what kids do. Why? A lot of reasons...all of which lead back to the parent. Teach your kids to play nice and they will. Watch who your kids hang out with. Teach your kids that their name isn't the only thing that defines them.

Lia, you said that growing up with your name was at least tedious. But you came out of it alright, didn't you?
posted by inviolable at 9:35 AM on May 31, 2000

Yes, certain countries -- like Germany and Sweden -- only permit names that are on a government registry. I don't get it, even though I'm half Swedish and one quarter German. ;-)
posted by dhartung at 9:56 AM on May 31, 2000

inviolable - I don't understand.

> About Francis, I agree with the judge.

Oh really? So what WOULD be a good reason to have your name changed? Do you think people shouldn't EVER be able to change their name legally? This seems like a good enough reason to me.

I had my name legally changed. And it was for a much more frivolous reason than this. It was no big deal. Very straight forward.

I find the argument that the judge is making to be offensive. Basically he's saying that what our name is DOES define us (for cultural reasons), and we should just live with that. He's saying that to change your name would be to deny who you really are. What crap.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:19 AM on May 31, 2000

A radio station where i'm from had a contest once where a guy had to legally change his name to "Heywood Jablowme" to win a prize. he did it, and presented his new drivers license with "Heywood Jablowme" on it to the station and received his prize. Maybe the laws are different in the USA, but in CANADA, i think it's pretty damn easy to change your name. basically, you gotta sign a piece of paper.
posted by Doomsday at 10:57 AM on May 31, 2000

The kid is unfortunate that he's stuck with the name for the next 4 years. Once he hits 18, the judge will likely be unable to deny his petition, legally. The judge's attitude does seem incredibly callous and almost adversarial, especially given how much grief has been caused in american schools, over the past few years, by kids being teased until they lose control and grab a gun.

Funny thought...wonder if the judge's refusal comes from a sort of revenge-motivation, for being called phyllis as a kid, the old "if I had to deal with it, you will too" attitude....

posted by nomisxid at 11:10 AM on May 31, 2000

It seems to me that if the parents agree with the kid, the name change shouldn't be any bigger deal than if he were already an adult. Oh well.

I remember reading about a judge in Brazil who denied a mother the right to name her baby "Rambo". Although in countries with a pervasive sense of national pride like many European nations, I can see why they would want to stick with a pre-approved list. Not that I agree with it, but I can see why.

Doesn't the Catholic church require a "Christian" name when a child is christened? I had a friend in high school whose given name was Misty Dawn. Her church in her hometown christened her Renee. I guess that wasn't good enough because when she later changed churches, they christened her Catherine. So she ended up with five names...
posted by daveadams at 11:31 AM on May 31, 2000

I should probably add (since Jon confessed to changing his name) "Eric" is actually my middle name, which I've been going by since I was 16. I can't stand my first name *because* of lousy childhood memories....

But then again, at least it wasn't "Francis" (snicker, chortle, snort) :0)
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 11:48 AM on May 31, 2000

Gee, what a wise judge, to recognize that one arbitrary sequence of syllables picked by the kid's parents at birth has an intrinsic worth so much greater than another arbitrary sequence of syllables picked by the kid (and obviously approved by the parents) a dozen years later. Oh, how thankful I am that the great Judge Straniere of the infinite benevolence was there to save the world from the loss of one of its precious Francises.

What a crock. Either the laws are different in New York or this judge is being a jerk. I'm not a lawyer, but from what I remember of the law when I changed my name, the only grounds for denying my petition would have been if the judge thought I was trying to defraud someone or evade the law. Obviously this kid is doing neither, so the judge is just being an arrogant ass by complaining about it.

Bah. The way kids get treated these days is disgraceful.

posted by Mars Saxman at 11:53 AM on May 31, 2000

In the dim recollection of my memory, I thought that in Australia you were allowed one name change maximum but that doesn't seem to be the case. It is typical in that the chosen name must not be obscene, offensive, frivolous, or contrary to the public interest. So why bring up Australia here? Two words (one name): "Yahoo Serious" (also I couldn't get to the New York State law site)
posted by plinth at 12:07 PM on May 31, 2000

This one has "ACLU first ammendment suit" written all over it.

Regarding the Germany thing, as I recall the law banned last names based on object names, and was passed to harrass the Jewish population. Many wound up changing their last names as a result (Silverberg, Goldstein). This story was hearsay, I don't have any references and it could be completely false.

In other news I think the judge was right about the "part of growing up" and completely wrong to prevent the name change. Oh well. The kid's a wimp anyway if he's worried about *that* name.

posted by faisal at 2:44 PM on May 31, 2000

Nice message. What would it harm to let the kid change his name? But instead, he is deprived a chance for personal victory, and he gets started on his way to developing a cynical attitude about the justice department.

Frank identified a source of his own grief, determined a course of action to remedy it, and worked towards accomplishing it. We should reward such self-sufficiency.
posted by Spyderella at 2:49 PM on May 31, 2000

I think Mars is right on the name change issue. I, too, once changed my name (middle name from Alec to Alex). Fraud, evasion, or some other improper purpose are the only reasons I'm aware of that a judge can deny a name change request without it being an abuse of discretion in the case of an adult - or, as is apparent in this case, a minor with parental permission.

Although I'm not admitted in New York, I'd bet that he just has to re-submit his petition to another judge whose name isn't ASSHOLE.
posted by mikewas at 3:09 PM on May 31, 2000

I would have to agree with the judge
this kid is just showing that the kids are getting to him. I'm the same age as this kid, and I know a few guys named francis who seem to be living regular lives. It's that same old saying "Ignore it and it will go away," this kid just gave in, publicly at that matter.
posted by starduck at 4:13 PM on May 31, 2000

inviolable, I'd like to think I turned out okay -- but then again I didn't have people teasing me about my name on a daily basis, they just keep getting it wrong. Which is, granted, something that really grates on my nerves, but it's entirely different from Frank's situation.starduck, "this kid is just showing that the kids are getting to him" -- what's that about? So what if he's showing that the kids are getting to him? And you would prefer that he did what? Shut up and suffer in silence? I had the good fortune to never have been picked on by my classmates when I was in grade school or high school, but had I been, I can only hope that I would've reacted in the mature way Frank did; like Spynderella said, he figured out a solution to his problem and did his best to get it resolved.A lot of people your age (or mine, since I'm less than a decade older than you guys) would probably just hit or diss the ones teasing them, or just shut up and require therapy -- hardly constructive ways of dealing with your problems. I wish he'd had better luck and had gotten a judge that a) wasn't prone to pointless grandstanding and b) actually paid attention to the law (which from what previous posters have said makes it perfectly legal for Frank to change his name), and I hope things go better for him in the future.
posted by lia at 8:05 AM on June 1, 2000

"...and he gets started on his way to developing a cynical attitude about the justice department." - perhaps this is a good thing. Better sooner than later eh?

posted by Mars Saxman at 11:34 AM on June 1, 2000

I never legally had my name changed, but for the past 15 years I've gone by Zach. Some people still know me from my birth name, but I've never related to it. It's not me. Now that my Dad has passed away, it seems somehow unfair to his memory to go legally changing it now, but I refuse to answer to "Bob" y'know? It's just not me. There's too many other Bobs in this world already.

I wish it could be much easier to change one's name, but the criminal element would take advantage of any leniencies. Parents are given the power to name their offspring, and were all parents to take this power seriously it wouldn't matter, but they don't. They come up with a name that was a relative's, or they come up with something that matters to them at the moment but has no staying power.

It's a shame we can't just hold off on the name thing until the child is old enough to name himself. I don't know.. just call the kid "hey you" for its first ten years of life. However I'm sure many child psycologists would freak over that.

A name's an important thing, and a founding cornerstone of one's own sense of self. It's a shame that cornerstone can't be placed by the person himself; that it's something other people bestow upon you.

posted by ZachsMind at 8:17 PM on June 1, 2000

Notice my username. The "f" stands for Francis. I go primarily by "Frank," which is a common nickname for Francis. When in second grade, a substitute teacher, calling roll, said "Francis Patrick, ...where is she?" when I was too slow in responding. For a while, the quickly developed usual "taunt" was "Frannie Patricia."

But I survived, and smile over it today.

Today I answer to all sorts of things, Frank, Fran, Francis, Patrick, Pat, Patch, "hey you" and whatever.

If the kid wants to be called Frank, he'll be called Frank. Changing the name at this point won't really help him forget any trivial childhood discomfort.

posted by fpatrick at 2:21 PM on June 2, 2000

Oh, about a trival waste of the court's time and the taxpayer's dollar.
posted by fpatrick at 2:23 PM on June 2, 2000

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