In baby news this week, a French court has rejected a couple’s plea to name their child Nutella after the delicious hazelnut spread, stating that such a moniker would inspire “mockery or disobliging remarks.” Forced to find an alternative, the parents settled on “Ella.” As justified as the ruling may seem, many people have cited the case as a restriction of individual freedom. After all, why can’t these parents name their daughter Nutella? They took the time and effort to make this child, they should have the right to give her whatever name they want. Nutella is not the only peculiar baby named to be banned by the government. If you can believe it, this whole legal name-banning things has happened before. Here are some other names that were legally nixed in countries around the world.
Justice, New Zealand
Over the past 12 years, the name Justice has been rejected 62 times by New Zealand officials, likely to avoid listening to the child announce himself every time he walks into a room. (“No need to fear, Justice is here!”) I can also guarantee that the ban has saved numerous children from nerdy restaurant waiters who would hop on an opportunity to dramatically say “Justice is served” when they bring their burger around. Still, it’s a beautiful, even powerful name and it’s weird that anyone would deem it illegal. Remember Janet “Justice” Jackson in Poetic Justice? ’90s idol.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s an average citizen with the name of a fictional superhero. In 2007, Venezuela’s government announced their intention to ban names that “expose [children] to ridicule, are extravagant or difficult to pronounce.” We’ll allow that Superman, which was part of the country’s list of banned names, is a little out there. But how awesome would it be to answer to it—especially when someone needed help? “Superman, can you help me with this math homework?”
Sonora, a northern Mexican state, compiled a list of 61 names in 2014 that future residents are not allowed to use for their offspring, including Robocop. Also on that list? Burger King and Christmas Day. No joke.
Apparently, Portugal refuses to list anything they deem as a nickname on a birth certificate, which includes the name Tom. If you live in Portugal and want your future child to go by Tom, you’ll have to find a longer variation to write on the official paperwork, like Thomas, Tomerford, TomBombadil, Tommerfy, or Alan.
Defending this one is going to be difficult, but I think I can manage it. One family in China tried to name their child @, an idea that was swiftly rejected due to the fact that @ is a symbol and not a legitimate name. However, the couple’s reasoning for the unusual title isn’t as absurd as you might think: in the Chinese language, the character for “love him” looks quite similar to the @ sign. With that explanation in mind, I’m slightly more accepting of the title, as long as his last name remains under 140 characters.
The same part of Mexico that banned Robocop also happens to have a problem with green, leafy vegetables because the same year, they also banned the name Spinach.
When we say that our brothers or sisters are “devils” or “demon spawn,” we don’t actually mean it. (OK, not usually.) One couple in Japan took the expression a step further and requested that they be allowed to name their new baby Akuma, which literally means “Devil.”
As Time Magazine reports, “a new father in Germany hoped to honor Julian Assange’s whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks by naming their baby. . .WikiLeaks. Not Julian. But WikiLeaks. While I’m sure the government could have compromised with the man (maybe letting the child’s first name be Wiki and his middle name Leaks), they decided against it.
Honestly, if Canada wanted to ban parents from naming their kids after utensils, why wouldn’t they ban the name Fork? The opportunities for embarrassment or mockery run much higher with Fork than they do with Spatule, which means Spatula, FYI.
Coming back to France, the European nation also recently stopped a couple from naming their baby Fraise, meaning “strawberry,” in the fear that schoolchildren would mock her with the phrase “ramène ta fraise” meaning “get over here.” That seems a bit overly protective, no?
We’ve all learned a very important lesson here today: that the fear of mean schoolchildren can sway an entire country’s policy on individual freedom. And also, that there are a lot of unconventional names out there. So here’s a question: Do you think banning baby names is okay? Or do you think a couple should be able to name their baby Nutella if they want to?
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