Naming a baby is hard. First, you have to think of a name you and your partner like. Then, you might want to try to get any other family and friends involved in the naming process as well. You also have to take into consideration whether the name is too old-fashioned, or whether it’s so unusual that your kid might hate it. Then you have to make sure that the name is even legal where you live. While the United States has fairly relaxed naming laws, other countries have very strict rules for what you can and cannot name your little one.
There’s a lot of pressure when it comes to naming a baby, and legal issues only add to them. Some of the names that are forbidden by local and national governments around the world make sense, but other banned names are puzzling. These are only some of the baby names that you probably had no idea were illegal.
The name Hermione has cast a bad spell upon the people of Sonora, Mexico. In 2014, the state issued a list of names that were banned for babies, and some of them were pretty surprising. According to the Spanish language website Animal Politico (via Latin Times) names are banned to prevent the potential bullying of children with what may be deemed unusual names. Hermione isn’t particularly offensive, but it seems that the authorities are worried that being named after the famous witch (who was named after a figure in Greek mythology) would simply open a kid up to too much teasing.
Hermione isn’t the only name from the Harry Potter franchise that has made it to the banned list. The state is going to be a little less magical, as Sonora has also forbidden parents from naming their little ones after Harry Potter himself. Voldemort, however, isn’t on the list, so it looks like parents in Sonora are free to name their babies after the dark wizard.
In addition to banning Harry Potter names, Sonora, Mexico has also forbidden parents from naming their children Usnavy (via Latin Times). Now, this might not seem like a name that’s particularly in demand, but giving children unique names, such as naming them after the U.S. Navy, isn’t uncommon in Latin American culture.
The name Usnavy also has a pretty cool pop culture connection that would make it a desirable name. Spelled as Usnavi, the name was used in the Tony award winning show In the Heights, a musical centering on Latin American immigrants in the Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights. The show’s music and lyrics were written by none other than Lin-Manuel Miranda (a.k.a. the guy behind the smash hit Hamilton), which makes Usnavy a pretty epic tribute to an iconic composer. Sadly, kids in Sonora won’t have the chance to bear the unique name, so parents are going to have to stick with Alexander or Eliza if they want to pay homage to Miranda.
Pluto isn’t a planet anymore, and it’s not a name either — at least in Denmark. The Scandinavian country has some pretty stringent guidelines for what you can and cannot name your baby, and Pluto is simply too far out of orbit to make the cut.
When it comes to names, the Danes are very set on tradition. The country’s Law on Personal names is meant to protect kids from being given names that could subject them to ridicule. Denmark has a pre-approved list of 7,000 names, most of them coming from Western Europe and the English language. Parents are free to give their kids other names, but names that aren’t on the list are flagged and reviewed. In some cases, parents have to explain why the name was chosen, and decisions are doled out on a case-by-case basis. Some unusual names that have been approved include Jiminico and Fee, but the banned monikers Pluto, Anus, and Monkey aren’t going to join them any time soon.
It might be difficult to resist the allure of the creamy goodness of Nutella, but it does seem like a strange name to bestow on a child — no matter how much you enjoy the concoction. France seems to agree, because they’ve voted “non” on the moniker. According to the French language La Voix Du Nord (via HuffPost), a court in the city of Valenciennes ruled against the name in 2014. They said the name would be “contrary to the child’s interest” as being named after the delicious spread “can only lead to teasing or disparaging thoughts.”
While it’s hard to argue with the sensible stance of the court, the parents seemed to disagree because they didn’t show up on the court date. In their absence, the judge re-named the baby Ella.
Nutella is not the only nutty name French parents have tried to give their babies. Just a few months after the name Nutella was banned, a court in nearby Raismes had to prohibit parents from naming their little girl Fraise, which means strawberry. Instead, the name was slightly modified to Fraisine.
Matti seems like a fairly innocuous name. It’s short and sweet, perfect for a little boy or a little girl — which is exactly the problem in Germany. It seems that the German government has a problem with gender neutral names and would far rather prefer that boys have traditionally masculine names and girls have traditionally feminine names. Not only is this a problem for people who don’t fully identify with one gender, but it’s also a problem for parents who want to give their little one a gender neutral name.
The country also bans object names, product names, and the use of last names as first names. An office called the Standesamt reserves the right to reject a name, although parents may appeal the decision. Most parents, however, opt for traditional names as each name submission results in a fee. Who knew that naming a baby could be so expensive?
It’s a good thing that Donald and Melania Trump aren’t from New Zealand. Trump’s youngest son, Barron, would have had to go by a different name if he had been born in that country. New Zealand released a list of names in 2013 that go against their naming regulations. Some of the banned names make sense; most people probably wouldn’t want to go through life called Lucifer or Anal, and it’s a good thing that their parents are being stopped from doling out such horrifying names.
Other names, though, make you wonder why New Zealand is so strict. Along with Baron, other titles such as King and Princess are also banned as first names. The artist known as Prince (which is actually his name) would never have been given that name in the first place if he had been a Kiwi. Strangely, in spite of their strict regulations, New Zealand has let some pretty bizarre names into the country. Among the weirdest names to be allowed are Violence and Number 16 Bus Shelter, which both seem a lot more problematic than Baron.
Saudi Arabia is cracking down on non-traditional names, and the ban has had some pretty harsh consequences for monikers of foreign origin. In 2014, a list of banned names was published and gave the axe to names that don’t even seem remotely controversial. Linda’s place on the compendium of forbidden names is due to the fact that it is neither of Islamic nor Arabic origin. Even common Arabic names have made it to the banned list. One such name is the name Amir (meaning prince) which has been blacklisted along with other royal titles. Binyamin, the Arabic version of the name Benjamin, is banned because of its association with Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Egypt is also considering preventing parents from giving their children foreign names. Proposed punishments for parents who violate the ban include being imprisoned for up to six months. Baby naming has never had such high stakes.
It’s hard to imagine what anyone could have against the name Harriet. Sure, it’s a little old-fashioned, but is that really a good reason to forbid parents from giving their babies the name? It is in Iceland, but not because the country has a grudge against the name itself. Iceland simply doesn’t allow names that cannot be spelled in their alphabet, and Harriet is one of them.
This posed a problem for a British-Icelandic couple who named their kids Harriet and Duncan (another name that can’t be spelled in the Icelandic alphabet). For years, the kids traveled with passports simply marked “boy” and “girl” until 2014 when the government decided not to renew Harriet’s passport.
Iceland’s parents can only choose from a list of 1,853 names for girls and 1,712 names for boys. Anything else is subject to review by the Icelandic Naming Committee. In an effort to preserve the Icelandic language, a 1996 act decreed that only names that can be “written in accordance with the ordinary rules of Icelandic orthography” would be allowed — especially if you want an Icelandic passport.
There’s nothing quite like naming your baby after your country to show your patriotism. Unfortunately, parents in Australia are going to have to come up with another way of proving their loyalty, because the government has decided that Aussies are no longer able to name their kids Australia. A list of banned names published in 2016 ruled out names for a variety of reasons, including obscenity, being too long, and creating confusion. Names that refer to public institutions or offices are also banned. This rules out Australia as a name, as well as God and Lieutenant.
You’d think that this would mean that unusual names would be off the list, but that isn’t the case. Feel free to name your Aussie babies Anakin, Disney, Zeus, and even Tofu. While names with symbols aren’t allowed, parents can get pretty creative with spelling; also allowed in the country is the name Phyineox. You’ve got to feel sorry for the kid learning how to spell that!
Anyone who has ever sat down after a long, hard day and cracked open a nice, cold beer might think fleetingly of naming their child after their refreshing beverage. Most of us probably wouldn’t go through with it, but a couple in Sweden tried to in 2017. Unfortunately, they were told that naming a child Pilzner wasn’t appropriate. They actually had a good reason for wanting to name their baby after the lager, though.
“My father was known as Pilzner because he used to drink Pilsner,” Matz Pilzner Johanneson, told SVT Halland (via The Local). Johanneson also inherited the nickname, and legally changed his first name to Matz Pilzner. Johanneson and his wife had hoped their little one would carry on the Pilzner name tradition, only to have their dream destroyed by the Swedish tax agency which doesn’t allow “names that can give offence or be seen to cause discomfort for the bearer.”
Cyanide might be a pretty name if you had no idea that it’s actually the name of a deadly chemical, but it’s generally a bad idea to give your kid the same name as a lethal poison. The U.K. had to ban the name in 2015 after a mother tried to name her little one after the substance that some historians believe killed Adolf Hitler. The name she chose for her baby’s twin brother was also unique: Preacher.
A judge stepped in, preventing her from saddling her kids with the unusual names. Sadly, the bizarre name choices turned out to be a sign of the mother’s mental illness and substance abuse. After the courts learned of her erratic behavior, the kids were not only saved from having to go through life with some truly odd names, but they were also taken out of their mother’s custody and placed in foster care.
Liam, the Irish version of the name William, is one of the most popular names in the world. It has made lists of top-ranked names in several countries, including the United States, Australia, and Switzerland. It’s even one of the most beloved boys names in France, but good luck trying to give the name to your baby if you happen to have a girl. In 2017, a French couple who named their baby girl Liam were told they would have to change her name. The court decided that since Liam is traditionally a masculine name, giving it to a girl could not be done.
According to The Local, the prosecutor argued that giving a girl a traditionally masculine name “would be likely to create a risk of gender confusion” which “could harm her in her social relations.” It’s a pretty silly argument when you consider the successful careers of other women who have borne traditionally male names. Singer Stevie Nicks has done pretty well for herself, as has actress Blake Lively (who named her own daughter James, we might add).
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