Welcome to the world, royal baby, or, from now on, Prince George of Cambridge (full name George Alexander Louis). As I waited with sarcastic bated breath for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to release the newborn’s name, I thought it prudent to google child-naming laws. The results were both frightening and enlightening.
First, I was bombarded with amusing anecdotal evidence of parents abusing their freedom to choose their child’s name. Case in point: Reverend Canaan Banana, first president of Zimbabwe. Yet the tiny number of these cases is negligible and certainly unworthy of the encroachment of federal law.
While the UK and the U.S. have no federal laws regulating child naming or name changing, many U.S. states have restrictions. Some states prohibit symbols (sorry Ke$ha), some prohibit numerals (sorry R2-D2), and some states have length restrictions to ease the burden on computer records (sorry Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis Jones). Lastly, states such as California prohibit diacritical marks (lo siento José).
In most states, a court order is necessary for institutions such as the government and banks to accept a name change. The judge can deny names deemed fraudulent, frivolous, or immoral. In this way, many states prohibit names that are intended to confuse, mislead, or endanger the child’s life. Racial slurs, obscenities, and the names of celebrities are often, but not always, denied.
In Denmark, parents have to choose from a list of 7,000 pre-approved gender-specific names. Iceland has a Naming Committee that limits names to those included on the National Register of Persons. Officials at the registrar of births in New Zealand have rejected such names as Yeah Detroit, Fish and Chips, and Sex Fruit. Sweden, Germany, Norway, Japan, and China also have restrictive naming laws.
If the British Royal Family is anything like the U.S. National Zoo (and both have been gifted a wide range of animals including jaguars and sloths), they should have let the Internet give suggestions on what to name their baby. I would have recommended Simba, but I was also privy to Cadbury Tesco Windsor as an expression of British nationalism.
In the meantime, the Internet named the royal baby “Royal Baby” to reconcile with the stress of referring to an unnamed infant. This what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach to child naming has historically resulted in several unfortunate monikers, from Number 16 Bus Shelter and Dick Assman, to Latrina and Toilet Queen.
Since 1984, six British boys have been named Gandalf, and two have been named Superman. This expression of free speech is consistent with the values of our founding fathers. As Ronald Reagan once said, “Government exists to protect us from each other; where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.” Names are synonymous with identity, and our identity is our inherent personal property to do with as we wish.