What's In a Name?

What's In a Name?

What's In a Name?

A French Court has recently stopped new parents from naming their daughter Nutella after the hazelnut chocolate spread, as it believed that the girl would be the target of bullies. Instead the judge ordered for the child to be called Ella, as it was in the child’s best interests.

French parents are free to choose a name for their children, however local prosecutors are empowered to report what they deem to be unsuitable names to a family court. Since 1993, several cases have been taken to French courts: a couple wanted to name their daughter Fraise (Strawberry), however, the judge ruled that the child would be teased and so the child was given the popular 19th century name, Fraisine; a father took legal action against the French car maker Renault for using the same name as his daughter, Zoe Renault, arguing that if Renault named a car model "Zoe" it would make his daughters life a nightmare; in 1999, a couple fended off legal action trying to prevent them from naming their daughter Megane, as a local authority thought it sounded too much like a car.

France is not the only country which has regulated baby names. In Iceland Elvis is allowed and yet Carolina is not; in New Zealand the name, Number 16 Bus Shelter was deemed acceptable whereas Yeah Detroit was not; and in India Lenin, Stalin, Brezhnev and Khrushchev have all been deemed acceptable names.

However, why do some countries regulate baby names?

In the case of Iceland, baby names' restriction is about meeting certain rules of grammar and gender, and saving the child from possible embarrassment. Similar concerns about child welfare are also present in Germany, where a Turkish couple were not allowed to name there child Osama Bin Laden. Gender confusion also prevented a German boy being named Matti, because the sex of the baby was not obvious. Surnames are also banned as first names in Germany. In China, people have been forced to change their names as they were thought too obscure.    

In the UK and US parents have been allowed to name their children whatever they want. In the US people see the freedom to choose the name of their child as an important expression of their freedom of speech which is enshrined in the US Constitution. In the UK a spokesman for the General Register Office stated that there are no restrictions on parents expect for exceptional cases where a name is deemed offensive.

Obscure names can be found throughout history as a 18th and 19th century censuses showed people named Noble Fall and Cholera Plague.  

Katie Hopkins, in July 2013 was in a heated debate on the This Morning show with Holly Willoughby over baby names and whether a child should be judged solely on their name. Katie criticised “lower class” children with names such as Chantelle, Charmaine, Chardonnay and Tyler. She continued by arguing that children with names such as these had a disruptive influence in the classroom. Also Katie felt that children should not be named after places, despite having a daughter called India herself.

Despite everything, does the name of a child really matter? To government officials and people like Katie Hopkins apparently it does ,but surely by thinking in such away we are not teaching people how to accept and understand other people. Is this the sort of thing we really want to be teaching our children? That if someone had an unusual name they should be teased for it or should be forced to change it or even be taken to court? I for one believe that our names are a freedom of expression and individuality which makes as all unique.


Nina is in her Honours year at The University of Strathclyde in Glasgow studying History. She loves keeping fit and healthy at the gym and singing to her hearts content. Because of Nina's love of all things history related, she has a passion for reading, writing and researching. Nina is the Editor-in-Chief for an online magazine for female students at Strathclyde called Her Campus Strath and wants to continue her passion for writing after graduation. 


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