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People and Politics Forum 08. 08. 2008

"Should the state keep tabs on the names we give our children?"

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More information:

The fight over first names: why parents aren't allowed to give children the names they want...

The row over first names: German parents are allowed to name their offspring Pumuckl, Pippilotta or Tecumseh - but not, Randy or Luca. The decsions about naming in Germany aren't left to parents - but to bureaucrats. Which continues to cause strife and pits the parents against registry office. It's a battle that's particularly to Germany.

Our Question is:

"Should the state keep tabs on the names we give our children?"

Cristian Julio Moyano, in Argentina, writes:

"The state should definitely have a say in the naming of children. A name is something that is with us for a lifetime. Sometimes parents choose names sensibly, but in cases in which they don’t, children can suffer unnecessary psychological damage. If state intervention is not justified, people should be able to turn to the courts."

Hannelore Krause, in Germany, says:

"Not in just any case. But if a child is given a name that means it faces being insulted, mocked or discriminated against, then someone should be able to intervene. I hadn’t realised the name "Luca" was forbidden in Germany. I know a few children with this name. But it ought to be backed up by a middle name that signifies whether the child is male or female. In Germany we’re forbidden from calling our children Jesus, even though this name is very common in Latin America."

In Thailand, Johannes Schmidt is of a similar opinion:

"The state shouldn’t be able to have a say in all matters. But if somebody wants to call their son "Bridget", or even "fridge", surely there should be legal measures in place to prevent them from doing so!"

Heinz Dieter Chiba, in Canada, disagrees:

"This Prussian partiality to regulating the naming of children is something we have never had in Montreal. Why should an anonymous bureaucrat have the right to decide for parents? On the other hand, in later life a child should have the right to change their name if they choose to, as neither the state nor parents always behave sensibly."

Writing from Germany, Nancy Menzel adds:

"I believe that in modern times, with globalisation continuing at a rapid rate, parents should bear full responsibility for the naming of their children. It doesn’t make any difference whether an A.J. from abroad is allowed to work here, or a native German has the name."

René Junghans, in Brazil asserts:

"Absolutely not. Parents alone should have the right to decide what to call their children. Allowing them this freedom of decision is one of the principles of democracy. It’s possible you could come up against a stubborn official who finds it odd to name a child Hans or Maria, but fine to name it Mao or Fidel. There are also a lot of people of immigrant background who give their children names that sound exotic to the German ear, but are commonplace in their countries of origin. How can you place limits on this?"

Dorothea Well, in Ghana, agrees:

"No. Exclusively traditional German names are a thing of the past. And what would happen to immigrants seeking citizenship? Does anyone automatically know whether names like Halife, Nana, Hali or Ofori are male or female?..."

In the USA, Lee Davis writes:

"While this might sound silly, I think this may be a tool Germany uses to maintain it‘s cultural identity."

Herbert Fuchs, in Finland, thinks:

"Everyone’s unique, they should be able to make their own choices and be happy with them…But the state should have the means to stop this getting out of hand, in the case of an unusual name such as Rumpelstiltskin, for example. However, it should stay out of parents’ affairs when the names they choose aren’t completely morally questionable, and are unlikely to jeopardise a child’s chances of a happy, stress-free life… "

Gerhard Seeger, in the Philippines, adds:

"The state should keep well out of this very private matter. Parents shouldn’t give their children ridiculous names that will be mocked. Children should be protected from this, but within reason. Officials shouldn’t be granted total control. If a child’s gender is unclear from its name, this can be easily clarified. The rule book that deals with names should either be done away with entirely or updated."

Christiane Ullmann, in Canada, believes:

"Would you like to be called "Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii" (New Zealand), 1069 (USA)? Parents should think carefully about how other children could respond to their children’s names. And officials shouldn’t be so stuck-up and narrow-minded…"

The People and Politics desk reserves the right to edit and abbreviate texts.