Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What’s in a Name?

We’ve begun the process of registering James with the local church parish and applying for his Danish birth certificate. This brings up one interesting feature of The Danish Way of Doing: all Danish children’s names must be chosen from a list of approximately 7,000 approved baby names provided by the government. If you want to be a little wild and name your child something like Violet or Apple or Brooklyn, you have to apply for permission (and likely will be denied).

I found an interesting article in the New York Times discussing this facet of Danish cultural homogenization:

In Denmark, a country that embraces rules with the same gusto that Italy defies them, choosing a first and last name for a child is a serious, multitiered affair, governed by law and subject to the approval of the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs and the Ministry of Family and Consumer Affairs.

At its heart, the Law on Personal Names is designed to protect Denmark's innocents - the children who are undeservedly, some would say cruelly, burdened by preposterous or silly names. It is the state's view that children should not suffer ridicule and abuse because of their parents' lapses in judgment or their misguided attempts to be hip. Denmark, like much of Scandinavia, prizes sameness, not uniqueness, just as it values usefulness, not frivolousness.

I think the good people behind Babies Named a Bad, Bad Thing would sympathize.

6 comments:

David said...

Wow. Just wow. Are they letting you go with an anglicized name, or are the 7,000 approved names all scandinavian? (I've got a few names for governments who tell parents what they can name their children, but I shan't go into them here.)

I'm curious also how citizenship works for your son... is he Danish? What kind of process will you go through to make him an American citizen?

Fascinating stuff!

Rebekah said...

James is an American citizen because both of his parents are American. In some countries you're given dual citizenship if you're born in another country, but in Denmark one of your parents has to be Danish in order for you to be a Danish citizen or be given dual citizenship. I was a little bummed when I discovered this.

It's my understanding that the Danish baby naming laws only apply to Danish citizens so even if "James" isn't on the approved list we should still be able to name him that. So, you know, *whew* ;)

LMGM said...

Brooklynn isn't that uncommon - I have an AC friend with the name - it's after a character in a novel unlike the inanimate objects you mention.

Rebekah said...

lmgm - yes, I'm talking about using the NYC borough Brooklyn as a first name. That wouldn't make the cut. :)

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

Apparently, Scandinavians have something to be worried about. I just read this story about Swedish parents naming their child "Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116" (pronounced "/ˈalˌbin/").

http://www.boingboing.net/2008/02/20/swedish-couple-fined.html