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Should the Government Restrict Baby Name Choices?

By now, at least half of the world knows that Beyonce and Jay-Z named their daughter Blue Ivy, which I would argue is a weird baby name, especially once you know where it came from. I’m sure there may be parts of the world where that’s common, but the United States is not one of them. Not that we don’t have more than our fair share of weird baby names in this country, but Blue is hardly a common first name.

The United States is also one country in the world where you can pretty much name your baby what you want. How about Gwenyth Paltrow’s daughter Apple? Or Penn’s daughter Moxie Crimefighter? You need not look one step farther than celebrity baby news to find some highly unusual names. But it turns out that our freedom to name our kids weird things is a luxury not afforded to the rest of the world.

In New Zealand there is an official government list of prohibited names, some of which include doozies like “Sex Fruit” and “Talula Does the Hula from Hawaii”, which frankly, I’m kind of proud of New Zealand for making illegal. Those are just cruel and unusual punishment for a child. Can you imagine the first day of school for that kid? I always hated when they called me Kathryn the first day, I can’t imagine how awkward it would be for the kid and the teacher to have to read those ones off a roster.

Conversely, in Iceland, the only names that can be used are ones that are on the National Register of Persons, unless the parents file a petition to the government to have a name added. Apparently the government takes the impact of a different name on a child very seriously.

And in Germany, all baby names must denote the sex of the child somehow. So there can be no Taylors, no Elliots, no Averys or Quinns. If you can’t tell if it’s a boy or a girl from the name, you can’t use it.

Now, I should tell you up front that I am an absolute traditionalist when it comes to baby names. We aren’t super religious, but I am drawn to a lot of biblical names because they are simple, they can be spelled and pronounced and because they won’t scar my children for life. As a former teacher, I can tell you that bullies will always notice if your child has an unusual name.

But all that said, I’m unsure of how I feel about the government determining what names can and should be used. Do I often wish parents exercised a little more caution when naming their kids? Absolutely. Do I think that there should be a law about what is and isn’t an appropriate baby name? Probably not.

What do you think — are these government laws about names good for children or have they gone too far?

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