What’s in a name?

If I had a pound for every time someone has asked “what’s that short for?”, I might not be a very rich lady, but I could certainly afford a cheeky courtyard lunch more often. Even when my parents tried to register my birth, the woman dealing with them felt she had to check that sleep deprivation wasn’t the real reason for this apparently bizarre name.

It seems that others have it far worse though. I love Beyoncé as much as the next single lady, but calling your child Blue Ivy Carter? Even I’ll admit that’s a bit strange. Giving me another reason to find her annoying, Gwenyth Paltrow went with Moses.

Surprisingly, it gets stranger in the real world. In New Zealand, parents fought to call their son 4Real. For Real. But the legalities of the system over on the other side of the world seem to make no sense to me. Whilst 4Real was rejected, baby boy Number 16 Bus Shelter was welcomed with open arms. Cute. Other nations are more logical, if a little too right-wing for me on the topic. In places such as Germany and Sweden, names must fall either side of a strict gender divide (no Alexs Sams or Taylors then). That said, in Germany, Matti (surely a male name?) is a big no, but Leoglas and Nemo are perfectly acceptable choices.

Should governments get involved in regulating baby names? The issue was recently highlighted by the case of an Icelandic family fighting to allow their 15 year old daughter to retain her birth name instead of being referred to as ‘Girl’ on all civil and legal documents. Fortunately they won, and Blaer Bjarkardottir can now continue to live her life in much the same way as before, but now as living proof that the state cannot control you from cradle to grave. Which is an important feeling to have.

Now, as a comment writer, I am probably quite biased here, but I think that opinion, liberty, and freedom of expression are all extremely important to national development and cultural identity. I would much rather live in a world where I could be given a silly name than one where individuality is eroded away.

The typical counter argument to this tends to focus upon the child growing up to be continuously harassed and bullied for their name. To an extent I agree. The parents found not guilty of child abuse for naming their three offspring Adolf Hitler, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie, for example, definitely wouldn’t have gotten away with it if I were the judge. But names like Domino (true story from my midwife friend) should not be outlawed just because some children might be bullied. My name rhymes with smelly and belly, you try telling me I didn’t have a hard time for it.

Children can be cruel and will pick out any aspect that doesn’t quite conform. Giving your baby and interesting name doesn’t mean you’re handing them over to a life of torment. I’m still on the fence about baby Hashtag Johnson but I honestly can’t think of a valid reason why the state should impose strict rules on baby names. Surely there are more important issues for the government to be concerned about, than the name of that kid who lives down the road.


  1. In what way is a country having strict laws over baby names ‘right wing’? Surely authoritarian?

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  2. If strict laws on names ensure parents abide by traditional gendered names, those laws are socially conservative as well authoritarian. In that sense, they are right wing.

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  3. Right wing does not mean conservative. I can assure you that some of the loudest voices opposed to this sort of thing are classical liberals/libertarians, who place great stay in both economic and personal freedom. I’m not even one of them, but the idea of applying an economic term such as right- or left-wing to a social issue is just misguided.

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  4. Came back to this article and pleased to see Anon has answered much better than I could to Jamie!

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  5. In fairness, it probs is the conservatives that would appose this… they are not quite naff enough to call a baby a ridiculous name. Find me a conservative called Crystal, Chardonnay or something along those lines….. all lefties you will find.

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