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Charles B. Sears Law Library SUNY Buffalo Law School

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Gaming the Name

Posted on: | by Christine Anne George |


A certain ye olde Englishman whose authorship credentials always seem to be causing drama once had an ill-fated young lover question, “What’s in a name?” As if a name didn’t matter. (Don’t worry—a McCarthy-era American playwright speaking through a distraught hero who had been both persecuted and prosecuted by the goody folk of Salem took the opposing side when he cried, “Because it is my name!”) Since that name of yours can be slapped on summit or stall (it’s a real thing, even Harvard’s doing it), there’s a pretty hefty responsibility on the people bestowing a it upon you. A responsibility that certain governments feel that some may have difficulty living up to. Are your ears burning, New Zealand? Because I’m talking ‘bout you.

You thought two parents picking a name was difficult? In New Zealand, there’s a third party involved in that decision: the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages. Before you go thinking that Orwell had a hand in this, it should be noted that the agency in question follows the guidelines that “acceptable names must not cause offense to a reasonable person, not be unreasonably long and should not resemble an official title or rank.” Not so bad right? Right…unless you were one of the six couples who wanted to name their kid Lucifer. Or King, Princess, Duke, Bishop, or Judge…

But let’s not dog pile on New Zealand for such rules. They are not alone. The Dominican Republic considered taking the plunge after a lot of parents went car baby-naming crazing in 2009. Sweden shot down attempts to name offspring Superman and Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 (no that’s not a typo).   In the US, the issue has come up with adults wanting to rename themselves—sometimes the courts allow it and sometimes not. Of course, there’s a big difference in renaming yourself. You can always blame the parentals for whatever name is bestowed upon you at birth, but with a change, that blame is all on you.

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