In a country like the United States, the Constitution creates a great deal of freedom of choice. This extends all the way down to how parents choose to parent their children. What’s more, the US way of living and governing people, creates a scenario where people are in a position to name their children whatever they want, irrespective of what this may mean for the child’s psychological development as he or she grows older, or even the fact that certain children’s names may be offensive to certain cultures and minority groups.
A practical example of this is the one of siblings Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Hons, and JoyceLynn Aryan Nation. These are actual people from one family in the State of New Jersey, and these kids have nothing to do with the original Adolf Hitler. It’s just perfectly acceptable by law to choose a Nazi-themed set of names for your children. Shocking and in poor taste maybe, but legal.
Realm of The Bizarre
The truly bizarre nature of this type of autonomy manifests when taking a look at what celebrities choose to name their children. Long before we were slightly shocked at someone as seemingly normal and everyday as Gwyneth Paltrow opting to name her child Apple, there was the case of Frank and Gail Zappa. Frank and Gail had considered it perfectly acceptable to end up with a brood of children called Diva Muffin, Moon Unit, and perhaps most unfortunate of all three, Dweezil. These names sound like the Zappa’s made a crazy bet with someone, and we bet the kids wished they had stuck to playing online casino games rather than landing them with those unfortunate monikers for life.
Most recently, we also have the newest member of the Kardashian clan who has been named True, along with cousins Saint, Chicago and North, and let’s not forget the Beckham’s choices of Brooklyn and Romeo, and the slightly more conventional Harper!
Some countries believe that names are, however, not the sole choice of a parent. Reasons for the outlawing of certain names vary, but it all comes down to two main avenues: the prevention of allowing parents to name their children such names that it will cause a lifetime of embarrassing moments for the child in question, and, in some cases, protecting and maintaining the cultural heritage of the particular country.
In France, it is forbidden to name a child a name that will lead to a lifetime of being mocked by its peers, and others. Birth certificate registrars are obliged by law to alert government authorities as soon as they spot a name that, in their opinion, fits this particular bill. In other words, a local court must be informed if a baby name tends to veer in the direction of no longer being in the best interests of the child that is being named. The court will then decide whether the concern is justified, in which case the parents will be ordered by court to choose an alternative name for the child.
As far as the banning of certain names is concerned, it doesn’t get any more rigid than Germany. Germany employs a large number of baby-naming restrictions. Like France, a lifetime of embarrassment is high on the list here too. As are gender-neutral names, product names, names of objects, and the absence of a last name.
Due to the country’s history, it’s also illegal to name a child Adolf. The reasoning behind this speaks for itself really. Whether Germany is taking the rigid nature of its governance system a bit far is debatable, but it certainly serves a purpose when considering the atrocities performed by a man like Adolf Hitler, and what the effect of a name like this would have on the life of the unlucky recipient.
Switzerland too, frowns heavily upon names that may cause social embarrassment or belittlement. In Switzerland, the Swiss Civil Registrar must approve all new-born baby names beforehand. Interesting about Switzerland, is that naming a child after a Biblical villain is one of the major no-nos.
In the end, it’s important to recognize that what appears to be exotic or out-of-this-world to some may not have quite the same effect for others. When it comes to naming a child, it is after all, all about choosing something that is significant to the person giving the name. Clearly then, Gwyneth Paltrow has a real penchant for apples!