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The Rules on Naming Your Baby

ByKylie McConville
Updated
February 28, 2017
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Image: Thinkstock / The Bump

Just over a week ago, a judge in Tennessee ordered that parents change their 7-month-old baby boy’s name from “Messiah” to “Martin” because the name Messiah is a title that has “only been earned by one person and that person is Jesus Christ.”

Following the court ruling, the baby’s mother, Jaleesa Martin, told reporters that she plans to appeal the case, saying, “I never intended on naming my son Messiah because it means God and I didn’t think a judge could make me change my baby’s name because of her religious beliefs… Everybody believes what they want so I think I should be able to name my child what I want to name him, not someone else.” The news made headlines all over the country, with some in firm support of Jaleesa, while others agreed that stricter laws should be enacted on baby’s names.

Martin’s appeal will take place on September 17th, but in the meantime, we opted to take a closer look at laws that protect baby’s names around the globe. Which names have been banned — and which are totally acceptable?

Here’s what we found:

United States

Baby name laws vary from state to state in the U.S. In 2009, a three-year-old boy named Adolf Hitler Campbell made headlines in New Jersey  after a baker refused to decorate a cake for the boy’s birthday. The state, however, had no legal right to interfere. The only names that are outlawed in N.J. are those that are “obscene”, or those which contain numerals or symbols.

In  California , baby names cannot contain umlauts or accents. In  Texas , roman numerals are allowed however, Arabic numerals are not. In  Massachusetts , the total number of characters in baby’s first, middle and last name cannot exceed 40. In New Hampshire , there can be no punctuation in a child’s name, however, dashes and apostrophes are totally acceptable. 

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Sweden

There’s a naming law in Sweden that requires approval of the government for names to be given to Swedish children. Parents need to submit the proposed name of the child within 5 years of birth. The law, put into legislature in 1982, was put in place in order to prevent non-noble families from giving their children noble family names. The first sentence of the legislation reads, "First names shall not be approved if they can cause offense or can be supposed to cause discomfort for the one using it, or names which for some obvious reason are not suitable as a first name.

Most recently, the name " Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116" (pronounced Albin) was rejected, as well as the letter " A". Other rejected names?  Metallica, Superman, Veranda, Ikea and  Elvis. The country does allow the name “Google” to be used as a middle name, as well as “Lego.”

Denmark

The country has a very strict Law on Personal Names in order to protect children from having odd names that suit their parents’ taste. Parents can only choose off a list of 7,000 pre-approved names — some for girls, some for boys. However, parents are allowed to get special permission from a local church (to be approved by the government) if they choose to use a name not on the list. Girls and boys, by law, must have names that indicate their gender and you cannot use last names as first names. Recently rejected names:  Anus, Pluto and  Monkey.

New Zealand

The Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act of 1995 prohibits people from naming their children anything that “might cause offence to a reasonable person; or […] is unreasonably long; or without adequate justification, […] is, includes, or resembles, an official title or rank.” Recently rejected monikers?  Stallion, Yeah Detroit, Fish and Chips, Twisty Poi, Kennan Got Lucy, Sex Fruit, Satan and Adolf Hitler. However, names like Midnight Chardonnay, Number 16 Bus Shelter and Violence are totally acceptable.

Germany

According to German law, you must be able to tell the gender of the child by their first name. Names may not negatively affect the well-being of a child and you cannot use last names, objects, or products as first names. Special cases are left up to the office of vital statistics, known as the Standesamt. Each time you submit a proposed baby name, you have to pay.

Do you think there should be laws on baby’s names?

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