Australian and New Zealand Parents Are Prevented from Giving Babies Ridiculous Royal and Religious Names

Parents from Down Under are currently being prevented from giving their babies names likely to subject them to “a lifetime of mockery and ridicule,” to quote the Australian Times. Names to avoid in Australia include the following royal, religious, vain and silly names like these:

Religious: Lord, Glory Hallelujah, New Covernant

Royal: King, Prince, Princess, Royal, Princess Diana

Vain: Wonderful, Beautiful

Silly: Fireman Sam, Honest Mary

Bizarre: Anarchy, Tit

New Zealand’s list of names to avoid is longer and contains a wider variety of pompous royal, religious, political, military titles and other silly monikers, including:

Royal: Majesty, Eminence, King, Queen, Queen Victoria, Prince, Princess, Regal

Noble: Duke, Baron, Knight, Lady

Religious: Lord, Christ, Saint, Eminence, Bishop, Minister,

Military: General, Major, Sargent

Political: Emperor, President, Chief, Justice, H.Q.

Silly: Lucifer, Rogue, Mafia No Fear, 4Real

I’m writing this post because in North America, some of the most pompous names (like King, Prince, Princess and Messiah)are growing rapidly in popularity and are likely to subject huge numbers of children to mockery and ridicule. Some parents are so thrilled with their offspring they pick names their children will never be able to live up to or live down. Are those parents smart enough to pick “normal” middle names. One would hope so, but the odds are against it.




Saudi Arabia Bans 50 Names Including Linda, Elaine and Lauren as “Too Foreign”

This story offers a new twist on banned names: in Saudi Arabia, they have banned 50 names for being too foreign, too blasphemous and too politically controversial. For example:

Banned as too foreign are Linda, Elaine, Sandy, Alice, Lauren and Maya.

Banned for political reasons are Malek (which means king), Malika (which means queen), Malak (which means Angel), Amir (which means prince), Binyamin (the first name of Israel’s prime minister) and Abdul Nasser (the name of Egypt’s former ruler).

Banned as too controversial are Abdul and variations of that name (because they may arouse passions from Shiite and Sunni Muslims).

Compare this article with my post about 60 names banned in the Mexican state of Sonora, where a variety of weird and ridiculous names (like Scrotum, Hitler, Virgin and Twitter) were banned to prevent teasing. By contrast most of the names Saudi Arabia banned are motivated by the royal government’s extreme xenophobia (fear of that which is foreign) and the paranoia (pathological fear).

Saudi Arabia is regarded as one of our staunchest allies in the Middle East. However instead of gradually becoming more open and democratic, they seem to be moving in the opposite direction.

What Name Will Sound Best in Your Local Park?

I enjoyed reading Robert Epstein’s article in the Independent, because it referred to topics covered in two of my most recent articles:
To Prevent Bullying, Mexican State Bans “Outlandish Names”
Interesting and Unusual Names of the Sochi Olympics Medal Winners

I also liked it because it written with wit and charm. I usually think about names from the standpoint of how your child’s friends will respond to it in day care or kindergarten (or high school). But Epstein knows what it’s like to wheel your child to the park for some fresh air and a chance to chat with people over the age of four. What will the other moms think when you call your child’s name?

It’s fun; give it a read. And when you get to the end of the article you may find yourself wondering what I’m wondering: did they read both of my recent article (as research) before writing theirs? (A key clue is the last word in their article.)

Of course you’ll have to read both of my articles to solve the mystery. If that seems too much like work, enjoy Epstein’s article.

To Prevent Bullying, Mexican State Bans “Outlandish” Names Like Scrotum, Virgin and Twitter

The state of Sonora, in Northwestern Mexico, has taken action against “name abuse” (the practice of giving children outlandish names that encourage teasing and bullying) by banning 61 names and promising to expand the list as more harmful names come to their attention.

“It’s about protecting children,” said Cristina Ramirez, the director of Sonora’s Civil Registry. “We want to make sure children’s names don’t get them bullied in school.”

Here are some of the names banned in the state of Sonora as reported by Reuters:

Technology Names: Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo, Email

Fictional Names: Harry Potter, Rambo, James Bond, Terminator, Robocop

Medical Terms: Scrotum, Circumcision, Virgin

Brand Names: Burger King, Rolling Stone, USNAVY

Historical Names: like Hitler

Parents may be influenced by the “anything goes” style of baby-naming practiced by celebrities. But if you can’t afford to send your child to school in a chauffeur-driven limousine, accompanied by a bodyguard, picking an “outlandish” name for your child is like putting a “kick me” sign on his back before he gets picked up by school bus for another hellish day.

So let’s call the practice of giving children “funny” or “outrageous” or just plain “weird” names that are likely to embarrass your child and encourage teasing or bullying what it really is: name abuse. Cristina Ramirez put her finger on the problem: children’s “outlandish” names “can get them bullied.” By her choice of language it’s clear that this is a problem that parents needlessly inflict on their children.

What kind of parents do that? People who aren’t primarily concerned about their children’s welfare. The Baby Name Police prefers handing out tickets to parents who abuse their freedom of choice to banning names, but we think a “public scold” is needed to warn parents away from ridiculous names likely to embarrass children and subject them to teasing, harassment, and bullying.

Should Parents Be Encouraged to Name Their Children Messiah or Christ?

Ed Stetzer, writing in Christianity Today, offered evidence (in the form of survey results) to support the following claims:

-“Three out of four (74%) of Americans say parents should be able to give their child religious names – including Messiah.”

– “A similar number (75 percent) say a judge should not be allowed to change a child’s name for religious reasons.”

–  “53 percent of Americans strongly agree and another 21 percent somewhat agree” [that] ”parents should be able to name their child Messiah or Christ.”

This research was conducted by Lifeway Research, of Nashville Tennessee, to demonstrate that Americans opposed the ruling of Tennessee judge, Lu Ann Ballew who held that parents could not name their son Messiah because “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.”

Unfortunately, Stetzer’s article did not provide any information about the sample surveyed, so it isn’t clear whether the “Americans” surveyed were a broad sample representative of American adults or were limited to Christians of certain denominations living in certain counties of the south (which are commonly referred to as “the bible belt”).

I have no doubt most Americans support the idea that parents should be able to name their child whatever they like, including spiritual names like Faith or Grace and biblical names like Joseph, Mary, Jesus, Abraham and Rebecca. Having a spiritual or biblical name is a daily reminder of the importance of caring about spiritual and religious values. I’ve conducted research that suggests spiritual and religious names create a positive impression for the people who bear them—because people with those names are expected to have a strong values.

As you may know, Judge Ballew’s ruling was reversed, so the right of parents in Tennessee to name their children Messiah or Christ is not, currently a burning issue. But I doubt most Americans would think it’s a good idea for parents to name their children Messiah or Christ (even if they support the parents’ right to make those choices). To be clear, this new question wasn’t included in the survey conducted by Lifeway research.

Permit me to state the new question clearly: Should parents be encouraged to name their children Messiah or Christ? Or, should they be advised against it? I think most psychologists would argue against giving children names that might encourage them to believe (and act as though) they really were a messiah or a savior. Many Americans are treated for this confusing psychological condition—usually with a combination of drugs and therapy. And, with the name Messiah currently ranked as the 387th most popular boys’ name in America, we can expect a lot more boys to struggle with this confusing condition.

This isn’t a religious issue, per se. It’s a practical and psychological issue. It doesn’t make any more (or less) sense to name children King, Queen, Prince, Princess  or Perfect than it does to name them Christ or Messiah. Since the children aren’t, in fact, royalty, charismatic religious figures or perfect human beings, having names that foster those illusions is a questionable practice because:

– The names don’t reflect the truth. They aren’t realistic.

– The names foster unrealistic self-images and are likely to promote unrealistic, unhealthy behavior.

I’d be very interested in seeing research conducted on a large representative survey sample to find out what Americans think about this new question. If asked to speculate about what such research would find, I’d expect most Americans to question the practice of giving children names that could foster unrealistic illusions and lead to unhealthy behavior. But, again, I’d expect most Americans to support parents’ right to pick any names they like–except names that can be demonstrated to be harmful to the child.

New Tennessee Judge Rules Baby Messiah Can Keep His Name

Judge Telford E. Forgety, Jr. of Tennesse has ruled that baby Messiah can keep his name. He reversed the ruling by Tennessee Judge Lu Ann Ballew who ruled that Messah wasn’t a name; it was a title. She believes there is only one Messiah (Jesus Christ), and no one else can use that title.

Judge Forgety made the ruling on the basis of the “establishment clause” of the U.S. Constitution which holds that the U.S. Government is prohibited from favoring one religion over another.

What it all boils down to is that Messiah DeShawn McCullough is now the legal name of a 7-month old baby whose mother picked the name Messiah because she thought it went well with his last name, “McCullough.” Of course, there’s no evidence to support the claim that Messiah goes any better with McCullough than Martin (the name Judge Ballew gave the child).

Many other countries around the world have laws that govern which names are fit for children and which aren’t. But Americans aren’t prohibited from giving their children pompous names like Messiah, King, or Prince. In fact, the popularity of all three names were among the fastest rising names on the top-1,000 boys’ list for 2012 published by the Social Security Administration, which keeps track of which names are “hot” and which names are “not,” but doesn’t favor one Messiah over another.

Makes you wonder what kind of people would give their child a name that had absolutely no basis in reality. I suppose the answer to that question is self-evident, if you give it a little thought. But I’d rather give you the pleasure of figuring it out for yourself.

Icelandic Girl Gets to Use Her Given Name

I’ve just read a fascinating report about an Icelandic girl who had been denied the right to use her given name, Blaer, by the court. (Like many countries, Iceland has rules about what parents can name a baby.)

At the age of 15, Girl Bjarkardottir (her legal name) went to court to win the right to use Blaer, which the court had deemed “not feminine” enough. My first take was, What a #@&! law! As if “Girl” is a better name than “Blaer.”

My second take is, Blaer (which means “gentle breeze”) is a lovely name. I’m guessing it’s pronounced something like Blair (a gender-neutral name from Scotland that means “plains dweller”).

Which name do you like best: Blaer, Blair, or Girl? If I lived in Iceland, I’d pick Blaer. I’m guessing parents in Iceland are celebrating Blaer’s victory. I won’t be surprised if a lot of Icelandic girls born in 2013 are given the name Blaer—because it’s a beautiful name and because it’ll give a little #@&! to the archaic Icelandic baby name censors.

© 2013 Bruce Lansky
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