In Iceland, there’s a three-person committee that approves and rejects parents’ decisions about what to name their children. It’s called the
Daniel Tammet writes about the committee in his new book, “Every Word is a Bird We Teach to Sing: Encounters with the Mysteries and Meanings of Language,” which was excerpted on TED.com.
“Every month, submissions from parents or prospective parents reach the committee. On average, between one-half and two-thirds of the names proposed will be approved and duly entered in the official register, which presently counts 1,888 boys’ names and 1,991 girls’.”
In May 2016, the committee rejected a couple’s petition to name their child Cleopatra because “the letter C has no place in the Icelandic alphabet.”
Iceland’s naming committee might sound odd, and unnecessary. It did to me. Then I discovered that versions of these naming rules exist in nations all over the world.
For example, The New Yorker’s Lauren Collins reported that in France, before 1993, names that described “things, animals, or qualities” and “names referring to political events” were rejected by the government. Today, Collins writes:
“[A] registrar is required to accept any name, except one he deems not in a child’s best interest, in which case he will refer the matter to a judge. In recent years, French courts have rejected such names as Nutella, Prince-William, and, for a pair of twins, Joyeux (Happy) and Patriste (a phonetic take on Not Sad).”
Meanwhile, move to Germany and your child’s name must correspond with their gender — if you want to argue, you’ll have to file a suit in civil court.
In the US, baby-naming laws vary between individual states.
In California, Governor Jerry Brown recently vetoed a measure that would have permitted diacritical marks (think accents, tildes, and umlauts) in baby names, the Los Angeles Times reported. Texan parents have a lot of leeway in terms of what they can name their child — but Arabic numbers (i.e. 1, 2, 3) are not permitted, Dallas News reports.
Beyond legality, expectant parents have a lot to weigh when naming their child. Business Insider’s Rachel Gillett reported that your name may affect your success in life. Consider: If your name is easy to pronounce, you’re more likely to attain higher-status positions at work. And if you’re a boy with a stereotypically girl’s name, you could be more likely to be suspended from school.
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