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Are There Limits to a Parent’s Right to Name Children?

A lot of people are up in arms, and justifiably so, over a judge in Tennessee forcibly changing the name of a child from Messiah to Martin. The judge’s arguments for her actions range from the trivial to the clearly unconstitutional because they’re based on her own religious views.

The judge in Cocke County said the name Messiah could cause the boy difficulties if he grew up in a predominantly Christian area.

“It could put him at odds with a lot of people and at this point he has had no choice in what his name is,” Judge Ballew said.

She was able to make the order because the parents were already in a child support hearing in a dispute over what their son’s last name should be.

Instead the judge ruled that the baby was to be named Martin DeShawn McCullough, which includes both parents’ last name.

“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,” she said.

This is a pretty clear case. The judge is wrong and the ruling is clearly unconstitutional and likely to be overturned on appeal. But there are other cases that aren’t nearly as obvious. There’s the case in New Jersey where a guy named one of his children Aryan Nation and the other Adolf Hitler. What, if anything, should be done there?

Comments

  1. Trebuchet says

    I’ve long thought that giving kids weird names is a brutal form of child abuse. What to do about it, however, is clearly problematic. And the judge’s ruling in this particular case is blatantly unconstitutional. Would she also object if the parents wanted to name the child “Jesus”? That’s a very common name among Hispanics. Or how about “Madonna”? Or “Mohammed”?

  2. Reginald Selkirk says

    I’ve long thought that giving kids weird names is a brutal form of child abuse.

    Johnny Cash sang a song about that.

  3. marcus says

    @1 I concur. And what about the Pigg sisters, Ima and Ura, and similar abuses? How to determine what is abuse and what to do about it? Prickly situation indeed.

  4. Johnny Vector says

    I’m pretty sure when the Abbott family named their son Peter they did more harm than calling him Messiah would have. Yes, I know (third-hand) of someone who did that.

    And where do we stop with what we disallow? Only religious names, or weird ones too? The nurses at the hospital refused to let Frank Zappa put “Dweezil” on his son’s birth certificate. So his legal name was the first name of every member of the band, but at home they called him “Dweezil” anyway. Then he learned that wasn’t his legal name and demanded they go change it. So they did.

  5. says

    The word “messiah” means simply “an expected savior or liberator.” Similarly, “savior” is a generic word. True, both those words, as Messiah and Savior, refer to a specific possibly fictional person, but neither word is “a title and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ,” as the judge wrongly asserts.

  6. Trebuchet says

    Curse you Reginald Selkirk, you’ve given me an earworm.

    @1 I concur. And what about the Pigg sisters, Ima and Ura, and similar abuses? How to determine what is abuse and what to do about it? Prickly situation indeed.

    The name was “Hogg’, not “Pigg”. “Miss Ima” was a very prominent Texas citizen; I don’t think her name was really considered a joke until later. Her sister “Ura” is purely fictional.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ima_Hogg

  7. cptdoom says

    Well, having heard some doozies in the bad name department – my mother was a teacher, who had students in her school named Donald Duckworth, Rusty Pipes, Robin Hood, and Adam and Candy Apple (they were twins and Adam’s middle name was Samuel) – I can certainly understand wanting to stop parents from these cutesy names to spare their kids embarrassment. However, I don’t want to have to do what the Germans do, who have to have their children’s names approved by the government, and this case shows exactly why – this judge has no business changing the child’s first name, nor can she compel the parents to use that name. I think liberty really requires us to allow parents a lot of freedom here, understanding that children can always change their names at 18.

  8. daved says

    Pigg sisters, Ima and Ura

    The family name was actually Hogg, and there was only one daughter, named Ima. Ura is a later fiction.

  9. daved says

    Curse you, Trebuchet! You and your fast fingers.

    By the way, I’ve just noticed that this case took place in Cocke County. I can’t believe no one has made some sort of hay out of this.

  10. marcus says

    @6 Trebuchet Thanks for the correction, obviously DNRC. Still it demonstrates an interesting dilemma.

  11. Mr Ed says

    Simple solution, an old boss of mine thought his name was Norman but when he got a copy of his birth certificate his name was not Noman. He was born at a Catholic Hospital in Montreal and the good sisters would ignore the parents wishes and name all the boys Joseph and all the girls Mary. We could do the same here just legislate one masculine and on feminine name and assign them at birth.

  12. gshelley says

    No doubt if a child was named Earl, or Duke, the judge would also have insisted that was a title not a name.

  13. Abby Normal says

    Incidentally, the father of Adolph Hitler and Aryan Nation has two other children with Nazi themed names, Heinrich Hons and Honz­lynn Jeannie. (He has a total of eight kids with four women.) Just last month he and his new fiancé announced that they’re expecting their first child. He says they plan to name it Eva Braun if it’s a girl or possibly Rommel if it’s a boy.

  14. jamessweet says

    I lean towards giving parents quite a bit of leeway, which has been the precedent here in the US. But it’s by no means a simple issue. My feeling is that if you regulate names, that’s likely to be abused (just like this judge did) more frequently than parents give their kids truly unkind names. But man, it’s a tough question.

    On the “Ima Hogg” point… Trubuchet and daved have already covered the primary misconceptions, but I want to clarify one additional thing: Ms. Hogg was very much aware of the unfortunate implications of her name, and it was indeed much remarked upon even during her life (contra Trebuchet’s comment that it “only became a joke later”). There is some speculation, supported by her own comments, that living with the name may have had some connection to her drive to do philanthropy, interestingly enough. Strangely, however, her father (who chose the name) apparently had no freakin’ idea. His name, of course, was Hogg, and he apparently just liked the name “Ima”, and there is evidence suggesting that the connection simply never occurred to him. Rather than a cruel joke, it appears to have been a cruel accident — but one which Ms. Hogg very much recovered from, going on to live a very meaningful and productive life.

  15. voidhawk says

    But all names have meanings, whether they’re obvious ones like Patience or Prudence or Crystal, or less obvious ones like Anna (A latinisation of the Hebrew for ‘grace’), Christine (Which, in itself is a feminine form of Chtist, which is the Greek for ‘Messiah) Louise (Germanic: Famous Warrior) My own name, Christopher, means ‘Messiah.’

    We chortle at unusual names derived from English words (Apple, anyone?) but they have just as much meaning as older, more familiar words we associate with ‘names’

  16. Pierce R. Butler says

    Quodlibet @ # 5: The word “messiah” means simply “an expected savior or liberator.”…

    Literally, it means “anointed one”. Anointing – usually done with a costly and fragrant oil – was a high honor (among the lowly Hebrews, anyway) signifying special status. (Well, they hadn’t invented medals yet.)

    Numerous personages were (at least symbolically) accorded this taste o’ glory, including Persian emperor Cyrus the Great and 2nd-century Jewish rebel Simon bar Kochba.

  17. says

    Here’s a compromise–the parents get to name the kid whatever they want. At 18, the kid gets to legally change its parents’ names to whatever it sees fit.

  18. Trebuchet says

    @14:

    (contra Trebuchet’s comment that it “only became a joke later”).

    Indeed. Some day I may learn to actually read the Wiki articles I link to before hitting “submit”. This one is about the third time this week I’ve done something like that!

  19. says

    I’ve long thought that giving kids weird names is a brutal form of child abuse. What to do about it, however, is clearly problematic.

    Once we acknowledge that gross misnaming is child-abuse, the solution becomes a lot less problematic: once they see the name the parent(s) put on the birth certificate, local governments should be able to dispute (at least) the most egregiously demeaning names, such as (I kid you not) Pleasure and Vagina; and courts can judge such disputes on a case-by-case basis, relying on widely-accepted community standards and reasonable speculation about the effect such names might have on a kid’s emotional growth or self-esteem.

    Yes, there will always be grey areas, and some potential for abuse; but that should not stop us from taking action in the least ambiguouis cases. Laws against child-sexual-abuse get misapplied too — but does that stop us from fighting child-sexual-abuse?

    However, I don’t want to have to do what the Germans do, who have to have their children’s names approved by the government, and this case shows exactly why – this judge has no business changing the child’s first name…

    We express concern about gross misnaming of children, and the effects it might have on the children (who are, I remind you, powerless in such decisions); and right away someone is comparing us to Hitler? Take your argumentum ad Hitlerum and shove it back where it came from.

    Here’s a compromise–the parents get to name the kid whatever they want. At 18, the kid gets to legally change its parents’ names to whatever it sees fit.

    Yeah, let the victim just suck it up and deal, so the parents cak keep their Freeze Peach. The kid gets to fix the problem AFTER the damage is done. You call that a “compromise?” The only person being “comprimised” here is the child. Why not let parents beat up their kids at will too? After all, the kid can move out when he turns 18, so that makes it okay, right?

  20. says

    The book “Freakonomics” has a chapter on weird names, some of which is pretty funny. For example, apparently some guy named his daughter “Shithead,” which he insisted was okay because it was pronounced “shuh-TEED”. Or so they claim.

  21. D. C. Sessions says

    I’ll take a (small) personal risk [1] and suggest that the kids have a right at adulthood to sue their parents for damages. Otherwise, someone is going to have to demonstrate actual harm to the child of the same level required for CPS intervention (a rather high bar.)

    [1] Like PZ, I named one of mine Alaric. He hasn’t objected.

  22. says

    The family name was actually Hogg, and there was only one daughter, named Ima. Ura is a later fiction.

    One of my middle school teachers one-upped the urban legend with a third sister, Sheza.

  23. smflex says

    @ 20 Raging Bee,

    That’s what the Germans do now, and the Germans now really don’t like to be Nazi’s either.

    Speaking as a former CPS worker, you should see some of the things people who are on drugs name their kids. The adoption process inevitably fixes it for them though.

  24. eric says

    Bee:

    Yeah, let the victim just suck it up and deal, so the parents cak keep their Freeze Peach. The kid gets to fix the problem AFTER the damage is done.

    If these (admittedly terrible) names cause psychological damage to kids, there should be clear historical correlation between naming and harm. Incidents of psychological problems should be higher in the bad-name cohort than in the regular-name cohort. More reported incidents of bullying even after co-factors like race and wealth are taken out. Evidence like that. Do you have any?

    Now, I’m not insisting that the state must show individual damage in every single case before that individual’s name is forcefully changed. That would mean no change at all because, as you point out, by the time you collect individualized data, the damage is done. But you DO need to show that giving such a name to tomorrow’s child is historically likely to lead to harm based on the recorded treatment of yesterday’s children. Can you do that?

  25. Stella says

    I spent the first 21 years of my life with first and last names that rhymed. The rhyme was intentional. My mother thought it was funny; she was a very mean-spirited person. Most other people, even other kids, were kind about it.

    Stella

  26. says

    If these (admittedly terrible) names cause psychological damage to kids, there should be clear historical correlation between naming and harm.

    We don’t need any such corelation to determine that some names are inherently insulting and demeaning, and pretty much force a kid to insult or degrade hm/herself every time he/she is required to say their given name. Again, Vagina and Shithead come to mind, along with the hypothetical Sniveling Rat-Faced Git. That, in itself, is a pretty clear-cut act of psychological abuse — and no, it’s not “protected speech.”

  27. Larry says

    I guess naming my son Fuck Jesus (pronounced Sam) would get the nice judge’s panties into a knot, huh?

  28. eric says

    Bee:

    We don’t need any such corelation to determine that some names are inherently insulting and demeaning

    Not sure what your’re arguing. Are you saying:
    1) I don’t need no stinking data to know harm is being caused, I just know harm is being caused because of how I feel about those names, or
    2) I think the government should be allowed to prevent names based on my opinion/majority opinion of what’s insulting and demeaning, even when the name doesn’t cause any harm to the child.

    Not that I find either argument very compelling, but it is not clear to me which of those arguments you’re using.

  29. tomh says

    There is a well-known (and very successful) poker player named Huckleberry Seed. (I’m sure Ed knows of him.) He has a brother named Cotton and a sister named Caraway. All of them have been highly successful in their fields.

  30. Carlos Cabanita says

    We the Portuguese have the German solution. There is a list (a very long list) of permissible names. With many imigrants and foreigners now living among us, the enforcement became rather lax, but parents still may face a veto from a Civil Registry director if they try to name a child something ridiculous or demeaning. I approve of that. A name must not be a burden, but something that preserves the dignity and freedom of the child, instead of respecring the silliness of some parents.
    By the way, Messias is a name here and is part of the approved list.

  31. wpjoe says

    I met someone named Mary Christmas.
    I’m hoping the kid is the messiah that will save us from xians forcing their beliefs on others.
    If you can name a kid Jesus, or Emanuel, you should be able to name him Messiah.

  32. nathanaelnerode says

    What should be done?

    People should have the right to change their names without paying fees. In fact, this IS the legal situation in the United States — you DO have the right to change your name at any time — but right-wing authoritarians have been trying to make it illegal.

    And this right should be possessed by children, too. I know a lot of people treat children as property, but, y’know, children’s rights?

    So, the kid is named Aryan Nation by his deranged parents. He should have the right to name himself whatever he wants and to hell with his parents.

  33. slavdude says

    Has anyone been able to reach Judge Reinhold for comment?

    Yeah, and what about Priest Holmes or Lawyer Milloy?

  34. cry4turtles says

    Do like the Native Americans…name whatever you want because he/she will change it at maturation rite of passages.

  35. says

    Not sure what your’re arguing.

    eric, I wrote my argument in plain English. And you’re the only one who seems to have trouble understanding it. So maybe you should work on your reading comprehension, instead of asking me to explain it any further.

  36. says

    And this right should be possessed by children, too. I know a lot of people treat children as property, but, y’know, children’s rights?

    What about parents’ obligations? Are you saying we should let parents shirk their obligations, and then use the slogan “children’s rights” to pretend it’s up to the kids to correct their parents’ callous mistakes?

    “…but, y’know, children’s rights?” Seriously? What a lazy, unserious brush-off. What’s that, your imitation of Atlas Shrugging?

  37. says

    We the Portuguese have the German solution…

    So I guess you Portuguese will soon be building re-education camps like Gitmo and Abu Gra — oh wait, those camps were built by a country that has no such naming restrictions. And they were built by a ruling party that was supported by libertarians who also oppose such restrictions. So I guess the link between naming rules and “totalitarianism” isn’t all that real, is it?

  38. whheydt says

    This doesn’t even have to get as far as unconstitutional. Someone in the comments thread for the article Slate ran on the incident cited the relevant sections of Tennessee law.

    Said laws give an unwed mother the exclusive right to select first and middle names, and the surname has to be either her current or maiden name. *If* the father signs off on a special state form admitting paternity, *then* the mother can give the kid the fathers surname, if she wishes to.

    So the magistrate was wrong all the way around and the mothers wishes should have prevailed. The original issue (surname) should have been tossed as something explicitly covered by state law.

    Hopefully some lawyer who actually knows the law will step forward and help get this straightened out and the magistrate censored–or fired.

  39. whheydt says

    A couple of diverse points…

    I’m surprised that in the title/rank context no one has mentioned that member of the Kennedy clan (by marriage), Sergeant Shriver.

    Baseball fans may recall The Alou brothers. All but one got Anglicized nicknames. The remaining brother got his name pronounced properly in his native Spanish. It was, of course, Jesus Alou.

  40. cptdoom says

    So I guess you Portuguese will soon be building re-education camps like Gitmo and Abu Gra — oh wait, those camps were built by a country that has no such naming restrictions. And they were built by a ruling party that was supported by libertarians who also oppose such restrictions. So I guess the link between naming rules and “totalitarianism” isn’t all that real, is it?

    I don’t think anyone is accusing the current German government – which does in fact require parents, right now in 2013, to get their children’s names approved by a registry office (called a Standesamt) – of being totalitarian, but certainly their system provides less freedom than our current US system. From what I’ve heard through my friends in the military who have had children while stationed in Germany, unisex names (like Madison) are a real problem and may not be approved by the German government, so parents choose a different name and change it when they are back in the US.

  41. lofgren says

    Unfortunately I don’t think there is anything that we can do to protect children from this unfortunate situation. Besides, as my wife and I recently discovered, giving a kid a name that will prevent them from being mocked is outright impossible.

    I propose the Sue Recourse: you can name your kid anything you want, but if the kid suffers excessive bullying he or she has the right to kill you in a bar fight when he or she is grown.

    some names are inherently insulting and demeaning, and pretty much force a kid to insult or degrade hm/herself every time he/she is required to say their given name.

    And Vagina and Pleasure are the names that come to mind when you think of things that are inherently demeaning?

  42. lofgren says

    And you’re the only one who seems to have trouble understanding it.

    Yeah, eric, it’s pretty clear that Bee is making both of those asinine arguments at once.

  43. says

    Hearing about this story made me think of boxer Chazz Witherspoon, who has sons named Messiah, Czar, and King. Supposedly King is named after MLK.

    I don’t believe the girl named Shithead story. The only “proof” seems to be a bunch of second hand stories.

    .

  44. Michael Heath says

    I’m with Raging Bee all the way. Kids have rights as well and we need to protect them from demonstrably abusive parents. Their rights in this case appear far more worthy of protection then their parents’.

  45. CaitieCat says

    I’m with Stella @28: the name my parents gave me at birth was horrible. It was used ALL THE WAY through my years of schooling as a weapon against me, being extremely rhymable with a lot of really unpleasant things to call a kid. Even teachers used to do it, and laugh while they did.

    One of the little things that made transition so bearable for me, despite the widespread and overwhelming emotional and physical abuse I suffered after it, was that I was able to choose my names, and got to choose names that aren’t anywhere near as easily used in bullying. If I hadn’t transitioned, I’d probably still have changed my names.

    I think parents should get to give a kid a use-name at birth, and the kid should be able to choose a use-name at some reasonable age, before declaring their own permanent name(s) at whatever the local threshold of adulthood is. But it won’t happen, because too many parents still view their children as their property, and feel that their views should outweigh those of the kids themselves as to how the children should present, and how they should be named. And yes, I’m a mother to three, grandmother to four, so I do have some experience in this area.

  46. lofgren says

    I agree that children have rights, I’m just not sure what right we are talking about here. The right to not have a name that elementary school kids will make fun of? The right to not be named after famous dictators or bodily functions? The right to not have name that some people think sounds funny? I can’t get on board with banning rhyming first and last names as mentioned in 28 or the use of names that might be a stripper name like “Pleasure” as Bee mentioned at 20. Are we really claiming that the right to have a non-rhyming name is something that the government should protect? And what the hell punishment would be appropriate? Take the kid away? Because anything less would be pointless. I know people whose official birth certificate name is so rarely used that they have trouble remembering to respond to it when called.

    I could get on board with the idea that a person has the right to a name of their choosing, regardless of age. That would solve Stella and CaitieCat’s problems before the hit 21, at least. Although half of every kindergarten class would be named Batman. And the other half would be Pikachu. And it still wouldn’t stop parents from using the birth name.

  47. says

    Five things.

    1) The judge in this particular case is out of bounds, and hir reasoning — to put this politely — hir reasoning is, at best, wibbly-wobbly, and highly questionable. Then again, so are the parents’ decisions, seeing as they named their kid Messiah. I think both parties have behaved in ridiculous and damaging ways. Doesn’t even things out or nothing, just… I’m sorry… “Messiah”?

    2) “Kreeaytyvve” spellings and “Yooneek” names are out of control. Parents, please try giving your kid a real name instead of throwing a bag of Scrabble tiles at the wall and taking the first handful of letters you see. Or, naming your kid after random fruit. (Didn’t some celeb name her kid “Apple”?) And naming your kid after a sports network (ESPN) is right the fuck out.

    3) Following from item one, if you want a meaningful name connected to your ethnic background (or not), THAT’S OKAY! Go for it! All I ask is that you do the research, instead of making shit up that “sounds” African (or Chinese, Russian, Japanese, Spanish, etc…)

    4) No. Punctuation. In. Names. Apostrophes, asterisks, dashes, numbers, and the like, simply do not belong in names. And stop using Y as an all-purpose vowel replacement! (And can we please, PLEASE ditch the -aden/-ayden trend? If I see one more Brayden, Caden, or Jaden…)

    5) It isn’t going to kill your kid to be one of three Alexanders in the class, or whatever, and life isn’t like the internet where you need a totally unique handle, you know? They’re not going to say, “this name is already in use” and force you to name the kid Mxyptlk or something.

    More importantly — It’s unfair to the child to saddle hir with a name that invites ridicule, or will constantly have to be spelled out due to Kre8tivity.

  48. says

    “So, the kid is named Aryan Nation by his deranged parents. He should have the right to name himself whatever he wants and to hell with his parents.”

    Is, “Fuck Hitler” on the approved list?

    The magistrate is an authoritarian asswipe and should have HER name changed to Ima Meddlesomeasshole.

    My name, translated from the original languages comes out as “Tardy warrior, guardian of children”, the “late”part is correct, the rest is flattering but wide of the mark.

    If my parents had given me a shitty name, deliberately, I would be changing my address as soon as I was able.

  49. mildlymagnificent says

    This is one area, maybe the only one, where catlicks make life a bit easier for some kids. Being able to choose your own saint’s name at the time of confirmation(?) means that kids with names they hate can choose, from an admittedly shortish list, a name that they don’t actively hate. Aaaaand, into the bargain, believer parents have no real argument with a kid claiming from then on (however dishonestly) that they prefer this name because their chosen name reflects values that they aspire to.

    Though believer parents probably named the kid Michael or Pauline in the first place so they don’t have the problems of Kkkryztall and other abominations. (I don’t know if anyone’s done any work on educational success of kids with weird names/spellings but teachers tend to notice the lack of success of some of these children – but only proper work would be able to tease out whether it’s the name alone or the family attitudes that led to inflicting such a name that link to educational success or failure. I can’t imagine that suddenly granting all these children names like Sarah or Claire and Peter or David – or their cultural equivalents – would change their lives all at once, but they’d surely be better.)

  50. martinc says

    I wonder what would have happened if the following conversation had occurred:

    Judge: “Why do you want to name him Messiah?”
    Mother: “Well the first two kids were messy, and I expect this one will be Messiah.”

  51. says

    Old O’kloma joke told to me by my roommate from the Tulsa area, many years ago:

    Twin brothers go to their first day of kindergarten and the teacher asks the first twin his name. He replies, “Wagonwheel Smith, Ma’am.”. She says, “Well, that’s cute, but I want your real name, not your nickname. What is your birth name, young man?”. “Like I told you,”, the boy replies, “Wagonwheel Smith, Ma’am. When we were born my daddy said he was gonna name us after the first two things he saw out in the dooryard.”. The teacher then tells the boy that he must go to the principal’s office and that he will be dealt with for being disruptive. He nods, leaves the room, then sticks his head back in and says, “C’mon ‘dog-fucking-the-goat’, she’ll NEVER believe you.”.

  52. says

    …certainly their system provides less freedom than our current US system.

    How much less? Is it really such a horrible crushing burden not to be able to name your kid “Shithead” or “Vagina?” The loss of “freedom” we’re talking about here is so insignificant it’s not even worth talking about. And it’s sure as Hell not as important as the child’s welfare. Banning such blatantly demeaning names as “Vagina” is an easy minor precaution we can take to make kids’ lives a little easier.

    Unfortunately I don’t think there is anything that we can do to protect children from this unfortunate situation.

    A guy in Portugal described a solution (#33), and lofgren, like the libertard he is, totally ignored it and gave no good reason to discount it.

  53. says

    I propose the Sue Recourse: you can name your kid anything you want, but if the kid suffers excessive bullying he or she has the right to kill you in a bar fight when he or she is grown.

    Yeah, better to let a kid be brutalized become homicidal than to infringe his parents’ sacred Freeze Peach right to have one more tool to abuse him with.

    And Vagina and Pleasure are the names that come to mind when you think of things that are inherently demeaning?

    An name, to a child (and to adults), is a significant part of his/her identity. Do you really need us to explain that naming a kid “Vagina” means his/her identity is centered around a body-part? Do you really need us to explain how that might be demeaning or harmful? I mean, I have great respect for my penis, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to call a kid “penis” all the time.

    lofgren, do you even have a clue what a demented, small-minded, utterly unserious little shit you are?

  54. says

    During the Stalin era, “Electrifikatsya” was a semi-popular name for girls, in honor of a certain benefit the regime had managed to bring to at least some parts of the country.

    And no, AFAIK the totalitarian regime did not outlaw that name.

  55. lofgren says

    A guy in Portugal described a solution (#33), and lofgren, like the libertard he is, totally ignored it and gave no good reason to discount it.

    Ha! Yep, that’s me! Total hardcore libertarian here. I’m all like “all taxes are theft!” That’s me, all the time. You do realize that “libertarian” is not an all purpose pejorative right? And that calling people ‘tard as an insult stopped being acceptable to be enlightened people sometime in the ’80s? And that this is issue has virtually nothing to do with libertarianism?

    In fact I did mention why a list was unfeasible in my earlier post: Anything less than taking the child away from the parent would be a pointless effort, because the parent will just call the kid whatever he wants. My wife and I are the only people in our families who call our daughter by her birth name, because nobody else can pronounce it. Each side of the family has a different nickname for her. Does anybody doubt that the woman in this article simply filled out the paperwork naming her son “Kristof” or some other variation of the dozens of names that mean “Messiah” and then went home and continued calling the boy Messiah without missing a beat? Do you really think that government paperwork has that much power over a person’s life? If so, you’re deluding yourself.

    Here are some more problems with the list idea:

    1. The list would need to be compiled, updated, checked, verified, culled, and otherwise maintained, including a process for contesting those decisions. That’s a huge waste of resources for states that are already strapped for cash, all so that the occasional deranged parent can’t name their kid “Shithead.” That’s a waste of resources, including money, paper, time, human potential, and the lives of the people who would have to spend their efforts on this. Seriously, I would rather pay those people to stay home and watch TV.

    2. Who decides when a name gets taken off the list? In Puritan times, long, hyphenated, “aspirational” names were popular, like Wrestle-With-The-Devil and Fight-The-Good-Fight. No doubt you would find such names offensive now, but they were in use for hundreds of years before they fell out of favor. What if I want to name my son Wrestle-With-The-Devil (“Rass” for short) after his great-great-great-grandfather? How long does a name have to be out of use before it gets dropped from the list? My own daughter’s name hasn’t been popular for about two generations after hitting its peak in 1900. The Baby Name Wizard doesn’t even register it after 1970. What about names that have been in the family for hundreds of years, but only recently became insults, like Gaylord? Can I not name my son after me because some homophobic shitheads might be homophobic shitheads towards him? Shouldn’t we be punishing the homophobic shitheads?

    3. Who decides when a name gets added to the list? I ask this, as if the whole point of your stupid list is that names can’t get added to it. Else why have a list at all? My uncle’s name is not uncommon now, and it was common in the past, but his grandmother refused to use it because for her generation the name was slang for a bodily function. In her mind, her daughter named her grandson something like “Fart” or “Piss.” Yet he has rarely encountered even giggles from his own generation.

    4. You single out extremely rare cases like Vagina and Shithead, but most rants against unusual names that I have encountered are the same tired racist and classist bullshit that permeates our society. You know which cohort is most likely to invent a name for their child rather than defer to established norms? Poorly educated Blacks. For a period of time, “White” names in that community were, quite reasonably, associated with imperialism and slavery. Raise your hand if you don’t think that this list will be used as a cudgel against minority and immigrant populations. Congratulations, those of you who raised your hands, you fail history forever.

    5. Will the list be maintained by gender? Presumably it will, since a little girl named Richard would probably get just as much teasing as a boy named Sue. But that would mean no girl Camerons or Madisons, both of which became popular as girls’ names in the 1980s and are now far more popular for girls than for boys. Is preventing that really in the government’s interest? Do you really think Cameron Diaz suffered long term harm due to what would have been a funny name for a girl when she was growing up?

    6. The list treats the wrong problem. Anecdotally, most people with unusual names grow into them and come to take a certain pride in them. My wife has a boy’s name, and a very rare one to boot. Sure, it’s annoying to her sometimes, and I do occasionally have to explain that I’m not gay, but she’s not about to change it because she considers it part of who she is. Of course, she had a loving and supportive family growing up. Meanwhile, both CaitieCat and Stella, by their own admission, come from abusive backgrounds. Abusers don’t need a funny name as an excuse to target their victims. They use the name because it’s a convenient weapon, but it’s not clear a different name would result in a different outcome.

    I am reminded of the studies about slut shaming and gay bashing. No doubt, following the same logic that leads him to the obvious conclusion that funny names lead to bullying, Raging Bee would suggest that we should outlaw homosexuality and promiscuity. Yet actual scientific studies investigating those behaviors found that slut shaming is NOT correlated with promiscuity at all! It IS correlated, overwhelmingly, with economic status. And the majority of children taunted based on their sexuality are not actually gay.

    Bee’s hypothesis is that unusual names are damaging to children. My hypothesis would be that if you are a loving, supportive parent who has their child’s best interests at heart, you can really name your kid almost anything you want and the kid will not only turn out just fine, he or she will eventually embrace their name. On the other hand, if you’re a mean spirited asshole like Stella’s mom or surround your child with abusive fucks like CaitieCat, the kid could be name John Lee and still end up disgruntled.

    Do you really need us to explain that naming a kid “Vagina” means his/her identity is centered around a body-part? Do you really need us to explain how that might be demeaning or harmful?

    Yes, actually. I would like to see some clear evidence that naming a child Vagina is harmful. You seem to think it’s obvious, but obviously it’s NOT obvious or we wouldn’t need a law to prevent it! So you’ll have to explain it, and you’ll have to prove that your hypothesis is correct by showing that children with funny names are worse off than children with conventional names, while correcting for all other factors of course. Because frankly your assertion is pretty much the opposite of convincing to me.

    I mean, I have great respect for my penis, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to call a kid “penis” all the time.

    Yeah, can you imagine how awful it would be to go through life with a name like “Dick?” My poor grandfather was so tortured and abused by that name that he even gave it to his son!

    lofgren, do you even have a clue what a demented, small-minded, utterly unserious little shit you are?

    Really. I reference a Johnny Cash song as joke, and you treat it with utter seriousness. Somebody references modern Germany, and you accuse them of “argumentum ad Hitlerum.” People make points, and you respond with abuse and absurdity. And I’m the unserious one?

  56. says

    Here are some more problems with the list idea…

    So how bad are those problems in the countries where lists are used?

    Yes, actually. I would like to see some clear evidence that naming a child Vagina is harmful.

    I guess you also want “clear evidence” that the people currently reporting sexual abuse by people like Shermer and Groethe aren’t all just making it up, right?

    You seem to think it’s obvious, but obviously it’s NOT obvious or we wouldn’t need a law to prevent it!

    Right…a common understanding of reality is invalidated when one person disregards it. So much for the common concensus on which just about every law ever written is based. If one person says vaccinations are bad, that means we can’t be sure they’re good, and more study is required. I’ve heard this denialist talking-point before.

    …and you’ll have to prove that your hypothesis is correct by showing that children with funny names are worse off than children with conventional names…

    If making a law against blatantly idiotic or demeaning names would result in a serious loss of an important freedom for anyone, you’d have a point. But it woudln’t, so you don’t. Banning such names is a very small burden, and an easy precaution to take for the WELFARE OF AN INNOCENT CHILD.

    You single out extremely rare cases like Vagina and Shithead, but most rants against unusual names that I have encountered are the same tired racist and classist bullshit that permeates our society.

    So you’re going to just brand all concerns about misnaming as “racist and classist bullshit?” Why don’t you go look at WMDKitty’s comment #50 above, and show us where the “racist and classist bullshit” is? Why don’t you show us where the “racist and classist bullshit” is in Portugal’s policy?

    Anything less than taking the child away from the parent would be a pointless effort, because the parent will just call the kid whatever he wants.

    Yes, but allowing parents to make a demeaning name OFFICIAL would force schools and other agencies to participate in the abuse, because they have to use the OFFICIAL given name in routine administrative tasks that require the kid to be identified. Banning the use of such names at least takes the state out of the abuse game, allows the kid to leave that particular bit of abuse at home, and clearly signals the parents that such names are not considered acceptable.

    I reference a Johnny Cash song as joke, and you treat it with utter seriousness.

    Yes, I take your lack of seriousness seriously, as proof that you don’t have anything serious to say. (And the joke is old and stale anyway. “Seriously,” as it were.)

  57. markdowd says

    One thing I tell everyone if the topic come up is:

    For the love of all that is decent in the world, do NOT give your child the same name as one of the parents! It’s stupid, vain, and all it accomplishes is decades of not knowing which one people are talking about.

    Yes, I have the same name as my father and it pisses me off ALL THE TIME. Don’t do it.

  58. edmundog says

    “Why don’t you go look at WMDKitty’s comment #50 above, and show us where the “racist and classist bullshit” is?”

    Okay…

    “making shit up that “sounds” African”

    “No. Punctuation. In. Names. ”

    There’s you go.

  59. edmundog says

    Oh, and you keep harping on the imagined person named “shithead”, but isn’t it interesting that no one can offer any evidence that such a person exists? I suppose it could be Indian. One of my students is named Jashith (pronounced JA-shit), but no one cares. Of course, they’re all five, maybe they haven’t noticed. And he was born in India. Would you force him to change his name?

    Regardless, most of the alleged really bad ones, e.g. Latrine, Chlamydia, Vagina, etc., seem to mainly have their roots in racist and classist jokes where some woman hears the word at a hospital and thinks it sounds nice.

  60. says

    edmundog

    It’s neither racist nor classist to point out that doing the research before naming your kid is a good idea. And I listed a number of other examples beyond “African”. A genuine, well-sourced African name is fine. Making shit up that “sounds African” isn’t! Encouraging people to do the research is NOT a bad thing!

    And punctuation — dashes, apostrophes, whatever other random meaningless symbols you want to throw in — simply does not belong in a name. Again, this is not “racist”, it’s a simple truth because many standard forms (especially of the fill-in-the-bubbles type) don’t allow for the punctuation marks. They’re also a pain to pronounce, because how the fuck do you pronounce an apostrophe?

    I reiterate, it is unfair to the child to saddle it with a name that demeans, invites ridicule, or otherwise has/will have a negative impact on the child.

    Please, do explain (if you can) exactly how any of that is “racist”…

  61. edmundog says

    “And I listed a number of other examples beyond “African”.”

    You listed them parenthetically afterward, indicating that they were of secondary importance to your point.

    “A genuine, well-sourced African name is fine. Making shit up that “sounds African” isn’t! Encouraging people to do the research is NOT a bad thing!”

    Yes, but referring it it as “making shit up that sounds “African”” is a bad thing, as it is ignorant of African-American naming conventions and is therefore racist and classist.

    “And punctuation — dashes, apostrophes, whatever other random meaningless symbols you want to throw in — simply does not belong in a name.”

    And what if you’re from a culture that includes punctuation in names? Is that part of the “research” that should be thrown out? Should Israel Kamakawiwoʻole have dropped that apostrophe, despite it being integral to his name? Should Jean-Jacques Rousseau have dropped the hyphen because it would confuse you in the future? Should Jill St. John have gotten rid of the period, lest it sink her film career?

    “it’s a simple truth because many standard forms (especially of the fill-in-the-bubbles type) don’t allow for the punctuation marks.”

    Oh, well, at least you know what matters in life.

    “They’re also a pain to pronounce, because how the fuck do you pronounce an apostrophe?”

    As a glottal stop, generally. See again Bruddah Iz, whose last name is made easier to pronounce with the apostrophe. Without it, he’d be Kamakawiwoole, which is totally different. And his middle name was Kaʻanoʻi, which is easier to figure out than Kaanoi.

  62. says

    So… you can’t point out any ACTUAL racism or classism, and you don’t give a shit if kids are brutally teased because their idiot parents thought DeNastyy was an acceptable spelling of “Dynasty”.

  63. edmundog says

    “So… you can’t point out any ACTUAL racism or classism, ”

    Except that your viewpoint disproportionately targets minorities and is based on jokes about uneducated people getting ideas above their station.

    “and you don’t give a shit if kids are brutally teased because their idiot parents thought DeNastyy was an acceptable spelling of “Dynasty”.”

    Probably never happened, so no, I don’t give a shit. Go ahead and address some of the actual people I mentioned. Should Israel Kamakawiwo’ole have changed his name to please the white people and their forms? Should Jashith’s parents have considered that they may be moving to America four years down the line before they named their kid? Should Jean-Michel Basquiat have changed his name to John Michael Basket, just in case anyone got confused? Should my cousin Stewart change her name, which she shares with her beloved grandfather?

  64. says

    So you STILL can’t point out any ACTUAL racism.

    Nice.

    You should STFU and remove your head from your ass — having done ACTUAL RESEARCH, I think it’s safe to say that weird, unique, and creative names WILL cause your child distress and WILL impact hir chances of employment.

    If you think it’s okay to saddle kids with ridiculous names, that’s fine, but I still stand by my position that such names are cruel, abusive, and ought to be outlawed.

    IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH RACE. I BAG ON WHITE PEOPLE’S RIDICULOUS NAMES, TOO. (Espn, Jim-bob, Billie-Sue, Chyna, Apple, Diamonnd Sparckle, Cristal… my gods, there’s a whole blog for this! http://notwithoutmyhandbag.com/blog/category/badbabynames/)

    Jashith’s parents should, at the very least, Anglicize the spelling: “Jasheed” Doesn’t change the name, just makes it easier to read and pronounce.

    Jean-Michel should change it to Jean Michel minus the hyphen. Again, it’s the same name, just easier to parse.

    Your cousin Stewart is probably tormented day in and day out for “having a boy’s name” and will constantly be misgendered in correspondence.

    And Mr. Kamakawiwo’ole could EASILY shorten his last name to “Kamaka” and avoid the whole issue of the apostrophe. (Again, I remind you that many machine-read forms do not allow for punctuation in names.)

    I maintain that it is unfair and abusive to the child to saddle hir with an unusual, unique, or creative name.

    IF it’s a genuine name from the parents’ (or child’s) ethnic background, they should easily be able to point to at least two sources supporting it. (Shit, at the very least, point to http://www.behindthename.com If it ain’t there, it probably ain’t a name…)

  65. lofgren says

    having done ACTUAL RESEARCH

    Hold the phone! You’ve done actual research? Why don’t you just FUCKING CITE IT THEN and end this conversation?

  66. edmundog says

    “So you STILL can’t point out any ACTUAL racism.”

    So ingrained racism that is the very basis for something isn’t actual racism. Gotcha.

    “I think it’s safe to say that weird, unique, and creative names WILL cause your child distress and WILL impact hir chances of employment.”

    It’s not safe to say, no. It’s unsafe to say. While most of my examples were in the arts, they were not hindered by their names.

    “IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH RACE. I BAG ON WHITE PEOPLE’S RIDICULOUS NAMES, TOO.”

    Derpty doo, doesn’t matter. It’s entirely possible to be racist about something and also make fun of white people.

    “Jashith’s parents should, at the very least, Anglicize the spelling: “Jasheed” Doesn’t change the name, just makes it easier to read and pronounce.”

    It does change the name. “Jasheed” would be pronounced “ja-SHEED”. Jashith’s name is pronounced JA-shit. My Indian students always appreciate that I can pronounce their names correctly. This is because I have done a tiny bit of work, rather than just whine that their names aren’t normal enough.

    “Jean-Michel should change it to Jean Michel minus the hyphen.”

    Well, he can’t, he’s been dead for 25 years. And no, it wouldn’t be the same name, it would be two names. Again, your ignorance of French naming conventions belies your claim that a name from a person’s heritage would be fine with you. Besides, aren’t you afraid people would make fun of him? Jean is a “girl’s name”, and Michel looks like Michelle!

    “Your cousin Stewart is probably tormented day in and day out for “having a boy’s name” and will constantly be misgendered in correspondence.”

    No and occasionally, respectively. Her middle name and, coincidentally, last name are also “boy’s names”, and it doesn’t bother her remotely. Oh, and she named her son “Adric”, after e-mailing a few random people she found online and asking them if their unusual name has ever given them any trouble. They all said no.

    “And Mr. Kamakawiwo’ole could EASILY shorten his last name to “Kamaka” and avoid the whole issue of the apostrophe.”

    Ah, yes, the Hawai’ian music legend should change his name and deny his Hawai’ian heritage just to appease the white folks. That would have gone over well with him, I’m sure.

  67. says

    Read Freakonomics. I’ll give you the condensed version of the bit I’m thinking of. Mind, this is off the top of my head, and I don’t have the book at hand right now, so this is pretty much a paraphrase.

    It is established fact that unusual, unique, and creative names WILL reduce a child’s chances for success. David or Susan is more likely to get hired (and subsequently promoted) than Jamal or Espn. And the kids usually pick up right quick on any negativity associated with their names, and will actually live up to (or down to) the expected standard, even when that standard remains unspoken and unspecified.
    /paraphrase

    Kids are little sponges, they soak up EVERYTHING. Especially the things you don’t want them to soak up. (In particular, I’m thinking about certain attitudes regarding race, gender, and sexuality that are entirely too prevalent in our society, but that’s a whole ‘nother conversation, and I’d really rather not derail.)

    So, yeah, do your kid(s) a favor, and give them real, respectable, dignified names suitable for a Supreme Court Justice. Give them something to really live up to, a standard to aspire to. I’m not saying the kids have to be, like, perfect and shit, just… you know, I’d think most parents would want to give their kids every opportunity available for success, and names are a part of that. It’s part of a parent’s responsibility towards the child.

  68. edmundog says

    “David or Susan is more likely to get hired (and subsequently promoted) than Jamal or Espn”

    Except Jamal isn’t an “unusual, unique, or creative name”. It’s common as dirt. What is also not is a “white name”. So once again, you demonstrate that it isn’t about heritage or culture, it’s about fitting in with the majority.

    “So, yeah, do your kid(s) a favor, and give them real, respectable, dignified names suitable for a Supreme Court Justice.”

    Okay. Bushrod Levi Mahlon Potter Blackmun it is. Hell, we had a Supreme Court Justice named David Davis, you think he didn’t get made fun of? How about Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar II? Now that’s a name that would get a resume thrown out.

  69. dingojack says

    Sorry I’m a little confused here*. Who will determine which names are ‘acceptable’ (or indeed ‘genuine, or ‘proper for one gender or the other”) and which are not? Who will determine which form of spelling of the name are ‘acceptable’ and which are not? And how will this determination be made?

    Also, if a woman calls her son ‘Vivian’ (after a well-known cricket player) just before Gone With the Wind became a popular film (starring the actress Vivien Leigh), is that is that ‘child-abuse’ or bad luck? [And would you, as a parent, be offended if they went by the name of 'Clive'?** ]

    As for names containing hyphens and apostrophes, though not common, they are common enough that computerised systems should be able to cope with them (it’s not all that difficult surely***?)

    Dingo
    ——-
    * OK, OK not much of change of state I admit
    ** see Clive James, born Vivian Leopold James
    *** It’s not, and don’t call me Shirley!

  70. dingojack says

    WMD Kitty – ‘invites ridicule’? Isn’t that just a form of ‘Heckler’s Veto’?
    Dingo

  71. lofgren says

    Comment 61 is like a Platonic ideal of Raging Bee’s mushy illogic. Let’s see:

    So how bad are those problems in the countries where lists are used?

    Attempts to shift the responsibility. Bee is the one advocating new legislation that would create new bureaucracy and government intrusion. It’s his responsibility to craft it so that it is minimally invasive and cost efficient. If other countries – countries that are much smaller and less diverse than the US – have solutions to those problems, it’s his responsibility to show that they can work here too.

    I guess you also want “clear evidence” that the people currently reporting sexual abuse by people like Shermer and Groethe aren’t all just making it up, right?

    Attempt to smear your opponent by dragging totally unrelated issues into the conversation and accusing the opponent of holding unpopular views, as if that is somehow relevant. Generally his first stop is to accuse the opponent of being a libertarian, and also sometimes retarded, as you can see in his first response to me. For the record I am neither a libertarian nor retarded.

    For the record, I have no idea who these people are or the nature of the accusations against them, but as a general rule yes of course I require evidence when an accusation is made against somebody. The idea that this is somehow wrong makes me feel like I have stepped into some parallel dimension.

    Right…a common understanding of reality is invalidated when one person disregards it. So much for the common concensus on which just about every law ever written is based.

    Construct an elaborate strawman. I say that it’s not obvious to everybody why certain names are bad, Bee says that I am attacking the basis of all laws.

    If one person says vaccinations are bad, that means we can’t be sure they’re good, and more study is required. I’ve heard this denialist talking-point before.

    Imply that your assertion has the same scientific weight as something that is fully proven. The effect of names on children is not unstudied area, but the conclusions are not nearly as consistent, and the research not nearly as extensive, and the mechanisms not nearly as well understood (as is to be expected in sociology, a field that manages to be even more messy and less precise than biology). What research has been done confirms my suspicion that banning unusual names treats the symptom, not the cause, of a child’s problems. Names can be used as a proxy for parenting styles and socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. Unsurprisingly, children with names that are predictive of those dimensions are also predictive of the person’s behavior. But that’s correlation, not causation. Banning those names won’t help kids as long as they are still in the household of parents who would give them those names. (And bear in mind this is research into children with unusual names, not “degrading” names, which is Bee’s particular buggaboo.

    If making a law against blatantly idiotic or demeaning names would result in a serious loss of an important freedom for anyone, you’d have a point.

    Don’t bother following the logic of your own arguments.

    Bee advocates a list of specific names (including, I presume, the race and sex that those names may be assigned to, although he is being coy on that point) that parents can choose from, not banning “idiotic” (a subjective term he refuses to define, because apparently doing so would undermine all of western civilization or something) or “demeaning” names. Bee has proposed no mechanism or standard for determining what names get to be on the list. Bee has only asserted that through some magic, the list will be built and maintained so that only those names that are obviously idiotic will be excluded. I can only assume that the list will be compiled by faeries and maintained by gnomes, because if human beings are involved in this project I can guarantee it’s going to require more details to function.

    Bee seems to feel that because he doesn’t deem naming your own child to be an important right, it absolves him from backing up his statements with evidence. I happen to agree that this is not an especially important right. But you will note that not a single one of my objections to his asinine plan is based on the curbing of parents’ rights.

    Bee wants to spend public money to interfere with the lives of individuals in a new way that he has no evidence will be either warranted or effective. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the right to eat bananas or the right to count on your fingers or the right to sleep on your stomach instead of your side. All relatively unimportant rights, but if we’re going to create a whole bureaucracy and a scaffold of laws to support it, you should be able to communicate to others how that system will work and show why it’s necessary. Because somebody is going to have to type up those justifications and walk them into a court of law the first time a parent sues to challenge your list.

    Aside from that, Bee asserts in this comment and elsewhere that names are in fact crucially important to our self-image and our identity, but then here seems to be asserting that naming a child is a meaningless. If my child’s name is so important to her self-image, then you’d better fucking believe that I want to give her the name I want to give her and not pick one from a pre-approved list whether I like it or not. Names are either important or they’re not. You can’t have it both ways.

    Banning such names is a very small burden, and an easy precaution to take for the WELFARE OF AN INNOCENT CHILD.

    Beg the question. Until you have shown that this list will in fact protect the welfare of innocent children, you can’t assert that we should create it because it is an easy way to do so. This is logic 101 shit.

    So you’re going to just brand all concerns about misnaming as “racist and classist bullshit?”

    Sweeping generalizations. I write a longish post addressing at least four reasons people might have concerns about the names of other peoples’ children. Of them, racism and classism was one.

    In fact, studies have shown that children with ethnic or low-class names perform poorly in school. Not because their names are unusual, mind, but because teachers expect less from minorities and poor kids, and their parents tend to be much less involved and motivated. Giving that kid a posh name won’t solve his problems. His parents will still be uninvolved, he’ll still be poor, and he’ll still be a minority.

    As I said, I most commonly hear this rant directed not at names like Vagina and Shithead, but names like Kwame, Kunte, Shaniqua, and others popular amongst lower and lower-middle class Blacks. As I mentioned above, this cohort has a strong tendency to eschew traditional names in favor of creativity. The common attitude of upper class people towards this behavior is shown in the joke that edmundog referenced in which a poor woman overhears a word she doesn’t understand and chooses it for her daughter’s name because it sounds pretty. It’s telling that WMDKitty’s defense is that she also dislikes names that are stereotypically given to poor white trash (Jim-bob, Billie-Sue, Chyna, Apple).

    And personally I don’t really understand why something that is “well-sourced” is fine but a name that only “sounds” African is wrong. If the point is to protect children from being mocked on the playground, shouldn’t any name that is not common amongst that child’s peers be banned? Shouldn’t the names of immigrant children be changed based on where they plan to settle, their economic bracket, and the naming tradition of the people they will be having playdates with. My daughter’s name is an ancient word, but it’s no less rare a name. The fact that I can prove it was popular in the 19th century doesn’t make it any less unusual today.

    Yes, but allowing parents to make a demeaning name OFFICIAL would force schools and other agencies to participate in the abuse, because they have to use the OFFICIAL given name in routine administrative tasks that require the kid to be identified. Banning the use of such names at least takes the state out of the abuse game, allows the kid to leave that particular bit of abuse at home, and clearly signals the parents that such names are not considered acceptable.

    Yes, I’m sure that CaitieCat would have been completely OK with her abusive classmates and parents if only her had principal checked a more common name on her attendance sheet.

  72. says

    dingojack

    It’s not the heckler’s veto at all. It’s looking out for the kid’s mental and emotional well-being.

    Hypothetical, here. Let’s say I had a kid. Hell, let’s make it twins. I’m all doped up after delivery, and in my drugged-up haze I have the brilliant idea to name my daughters “Vadgesty Foxi Maiden” and “Vagena Tamphen Pohtaytar”.

    I WANT someone standing by going, “Eh, that’s not such a good idea,” if only to spare my hypothetical daughters the humiliation of such awful names. (And that doesn’t even go into the crap they’d face as adults with those names!)

  73. lofgren says

    Jamal was the 271st most common name for a boy in 1990, more common than Maurice, Roman, or Sammy.

    You know who else is less likely to get hired? Black people. Jamal doesn’t get called back for an interview because nobody has to meet him face to face to find out what color his skin is.

    Also it strikes me that giving your kid a name appropriate for a Supreme Court Justice dramatically decreases the names available to girls.

  74. lofgren says

    And there we have it. Lofgren condones emotional and mental abuse of children, all in the name of “parents’ rights”.

    And there we have it. WMDKitty creates a overly broad strawman while begging the question.

  75. lofgren says

    Hypothetical, here. Let’s say I had a kid. Hell, let’s make it twins. I’m all doped up after delivery, and in my drugged-up haze I have the brilliant idea to name my daughters “Vadgesty Foxi Maiden” and “Vagena Tamphen Pohtaytar”.

    Your hypothetical is asinine. You claim that you actually have children but this proves you don’t know how they get their names. The clerk isn’t standing there while you’re screaming in labor with his quill pen at the ready, to inscribe whatever loopy gobbledygook you spew the second your spawn breathes air. And if you change your mind he doesn’t shout “Nuh-uh! I already wrote it down! Now you have to live with it forever.”

    Furthermore, “That’s not a good idea” is not the same as “That’s illegal.” It’s not a good idea to lie naked in the sun without sunscreen, but it’s not illegal. It’s not a good idea for me to be up at 3 am, but it’s not illegal. It’s not a good idea to advocate laws without at least some evidence that they will be effective, and to deflect any request for further information about how said law will be implemented, enforced, and maintained by accusing the questioner of condoning child abuse, but nobody is going to kick down your door and drag you off to jail for it.

  76. edmundog says

    “Now you’re being ridiculous,”

    By responding to exactly what you said? No, I’m engaging your point after you completely dodged mine.

    “and David Davis is a perfectly fine name.”

    Really? He was a big guy, too. You think a fat kid named David Davis wouldn’t get picked on in gym class? How about a poet named William Williams? Or are those okay names because you can’t think of a way to make them whiter?

  77. dingojack says

    WMD Kitty – you are aware that adults can change their names legally by deed poll (or the equivalent)?
    It is a form of Heckler’s Veto if you are prevented from calling your kid whatever for fear that some other bogan might object.*
    [What if kids could name themselves? Would you be standing by as a parent going 'nuh uh' if your kid decided they wanted to called 'Princess' or 'Batman'?]
    Dingo

    * Indeed, if ‘Bogan’ was a perfectly normal name in, say Slovakia, and the child’s family immigrated to Australia would they be forced to change their child’s name because it has a negative connotation in their new home?

  78. lofgren says

    Some more names less common than Jamal:

    Malcolm
    Earl
    Marshall
    Kirk
    Toby
    Everett
    Allen

    All of which sound like perfectly reasonable Supreme Court Justice names.

    I was surprised to find that Trenton, as in New Jersey, was actually more common than Jamal, as well as Ricardo, Randy (talk about inviting ridicule), and Gage.

    Brayden was the 40th most common name since 2010, with more than 24 per thousand boys sharing it.

  79. dingojack says

    Warning – slightly OT.

    Somehow the obvious suddenly came to mind:

    “‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
    Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
    What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
    Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
    Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
    What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet;
    So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
    Retain that dear perfection which he owes
    Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
    And for that name which is no part of thee
    Take all myself.”

    Dingo

  80. edmundog says

    Or, if you prefer the Reduced Shakespeare version – “That which we call a nose by any other name would still smell.”

  81. dingojack says

    Now you’re leading even further along a tangent:
    A woman objected luodly tot sitting next to Dr. Samuel Johnson at a dinner party because, she complained, ‘he smells’. ‘Madam’, Dr. Johnson rebuked, ‘I stink you smell’.
    Dingo
    ——-
    There is also the delightful story of Johnson being discovered by his wife in the act of kissing a maid in a cupboard.
    Mrs J: Samuel, I am surprised!
    Dr J: No madam, you are shocked, we are surprised.

    PS: Neither are true.

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