Banned baby names: New Zealand struggles with what's in a name - as do we

Banned baby names were announced in New Zealand today: among them 'V8' and "Number 16 bus shelter." Oh, and there will be no 'Justice' there, either, as our mom who named four kids talks about the struggle to be unique but not cruel.

Associated Press
Banned baby names in New Zealand – including "Justice" and "Midnight Chardonnay" – are far more outrageous than the Icelandic name Blaer, left, seen here with her mother Bjork Eidsdottir. Blaer means "light breeze."

Parenting begins before the baby’s born and we select the name our child will either fly on the wings of, or carry like an albatross. This global issue is addressed in Iceland and New Zealand, where governments ban some names in order to rein in parents who too often see naming as a good joke, rather than a responsibility. Babies are caught in a tug of war between parental personal freedoms and alleviating bullying issues, as parents fail to find the wisdom of Solomon when naming their children and thus give names that are cruel in their carelessness and grist for the mean mills.

This week in New Zealand, officials working for the country's births, deaths, and marriages department updated their list of rejected names, according to Sky News. Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy name-calling session from here on out. This list began in 1995.

“The list of 77 names reveals one child was set to be called 'Anal' before the Department of Internal Affairs vetoed the proposal, while another narrowly avoided being dubbed '.' or full stop,” according to the Sky News report. “Other names on the list included '4Real' and 'V8'.”

According to Sky News, back in 2008 New Zealand's family court ordered a name change for a girl, 9, named "Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii" because it "makes a fool of the child."

I blame Tom Lehrer for a good joke from his album “An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer” gone pear-shaped over the years. His routine called “We Will All Go Together When We Go” had the famously quoted line, “I am reminded at this point of a fellow I used to know who's name was Henry, only to give you an idea of what an individualist he was he spelt it HEN3RY. The 3 was silent, you see.”

I really don’t think he could have predicted the trail of tears he paved with that joke, resulting in names that New Zealand Judge Rob Murfitt cited as examples of what never to name a baby, such as "Number 16 Bus Shelter," "Midnight Chardonnay," and twins called "Benson" and "Hedges," Sky reports.

The way I see it the courts are going to be tied-up either way so perhaps we should allow people their freedom or there will be no “Justice” in this world, at least not in New Zealand where that one is also banned. Also the spellings “Justus” and Juztice” didn’t make it past the censor.

I personally can’t imagine a world without a Justus Williams, chess phenom of Brooklyn’s IS 318 and the film Brooklyn Castle. Somehow seeing him destroy the field, winning against the odds of circumstance, race, socioeconomic status, and statistical probability makes me want to shout, “Yes! There is Justus in this world!” Frankly, shouting, “Yes! There is Sheldon in this world!” just isn’t the same.

Back to the courts, in January of this year, we reported on Blaer Bjarkardottir, 15 of Iceland, who was denied her name because it wasn't on official registries of approved names. I was very happy to learn that the 15-year-old sued the Icelandic state for the right to legally use the name given to her by her mother and won her court case. She can now use her name – Blaer, meaning "light breeze" – instead of "Stukla," which means "girl" and was imposed on her by government agencies. Blaer is not on a list approved by the government.

Our eldest is named Zoltan, 19 after the Hungarian Zoltán Kodály the Hungarian composerethnomusicologistpedagoguelinguist, and philosopher. We called him “Zoli” as a child. He has no middle name because my mother-in-law said that she disliked the name so much she would insist on calling him by whatever middle name we gave him. Zoltan loves his name as a conversation starter and because, “It’s just cool.”

Next in line is Ian “Tucker,” 17. His middle name was chosen for the doctor who delivered him against terrifying odds or the island where he was conceived. We alter the middle name story for Ian depending on who’s asking. He refused comment. Not sure if that means he dislikes it or is just tired of being quoted in the blog.

Avery Danger Suhay, 14, was the clincher for names. Our priest flatly refused to say the name at his baptism which resulted in a packed church in New Jersey being introduced to a Frenchified pronunciation of Avery Dangerre Suhay. Today he said, “I love having Danger as my middle name. Excellent choice.”

Quinten, 9, is named after the song "Mighty Quin" and his middle name, "Coltrane", for both the jazz musician and the Norfolk Southern coal cars that bang night and day near our home here in Virginia.

“I don’t know if I’m happy with my name,” he said this morning when I asked. “I mean, how often do you meet someone named after a mighty Eskimo in a song? Did you ever think how hard that would be to explain to third-graders?”

Well, I thought it was a cool name. I had to punt this morning to redeem myself and his name by looking it up online and finding Quinten, Switzerland and it’s “awe-inspiring near-vertical cliffs.”  This appears to satisfy Quin, and he went to school proud and tall as a limestone giant.

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