Call It Like It Is | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 21.12.2004
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Call It Like It Is

Despite Germany's restrictive laws on acceptable names for children, quirky ones squeak through. "Andalucia" was conceived during a Spanish vacation and "Nemax's" mother works for the stock exchange.


No "Troublemaker"

"Parents' imaginations are sometimes boundless when it comes to naming their offspring," according to Gerhard Müller, who should know what he's talking about. Müller works for the Society for German Language in Wiesbaden as an advisor on names, which involves ploughing through the roughly 30 enquiries that land on his desk daily.

Unlike in the United States, where almost anything goes, German law stipulates that first names must already exist in some language and clearly signify the child's gender. It's Müller's job to ensure that's the case, though the civil registry offices that use his services aren't obliged to abide by his recommendations.

Exotic first names have been trendy for some time, making up from 10 to 20 percent of the names in Germany, Müller said. He put it down to society's focus on individualism. At the moment, Indian and native American names are popular, he said.

Pepsi but no Coke



But even with the restrictions, seemingly silly names still make the grade. Parents here are free to call their children "Pumuckl" -- which Germans associate with a series of children's movies and books about an imp of the same name -- since it stems from Nepomuk, an accepted German name. The same goes for "Pepsi-Carola" as "Pepsi" comes from "Pepita."

Müller said he does try to convince parents to change their minds when he thinks they might have gone too far -- even if the name does exist. "The girl's name 'Nagina,' for example, comes from Sanskrit," he said. "You don't need much of an imagination to distort it. And we all know how mean children can be." In the end, "Nagina" became the girl's middle name.

But Müller gave the thumbs-down to "McDonald," "Bierstübel" (ale house) and "Störenfried" (troublemaker).

Not only does law prohibit parents from giving their kids the names of products, it limits how many they can have. A Düsseldorf court drew the line at a mother's plea for permission to give her son twelve names of different origin to show the boy that "people's hearts know no borders." She had wanted to call the boy "Chenekwahow Migiskau Mikapi-Hun-Nizeo Alessandro Majim Chayara Inti Ernesto Prithibe Kioma Pathar Henriko."

Now the boy's just called "Chenekwahow Migiskau Kioma Ernesto Tecumseh."

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