Opinion

Banned baby names: French court says non to Nutella

Judge rules the trademarked name is contrary to the interests of the child.

Photo: iStockphoto

Photo: iStockphoto

The name Nutella recently got a grande “Non!” from a judge in France. A French couple wanted to name their baby after the chocolate-hazelnut spread, but a judge said the name was “contrary to the interests of the child,” and because the parents didn’t show up to the hearing, the judge renamed the sweet bundle of joy “Ella.”

Little Ella was not the only French baby whose name was recently rejected. After the courts threw out the name Fraise (French for strawberry), the parents renamed their bundle of joy Fraisine, a name popular in the 19th century.

France has a law that stipulates a parent cannot give a child a name that would “harm a child’s interest” or subject them to ridicule and discrimination. Nutella and Fraise are among the latest monikers added to the country’s list of banned names. But France isn’t alone in controlling given names.

In Iceland, parents must choose from a list of 18,000 gender-specific names for their children. If they want to be more creative in their name choices, they have to get committee approval and may even have to go to the courts if they want a name that is not on the official list. This is what happened to Blaer Bjarkardottie, whose name means “light breeze” in Icelandic. The government felt that the name wasn’t “feminine enough.” At the age of 17, Blaer was finally allowed to keep her name.

New Zealand also has a list of banned baby names, including Lucifer, Messiah and Justice. Perhaps the government feels that those names just give the baby too much to live up to. But the court has allowed “Bus Shelter Number 16” as a first name, so who knows what they take into consideration when deciding on appropriate monikers.

In Germany names have to denote gender and cannot be last names or objects. I guess there aren’t any Andersons, Beckers, Axels or Cookies running around the playgrounds. Malaysia frowns on nature names, so the parents of Daisy, Bear, Apple and Violet would have to find something a little less organic.

While Canada does not have a federal law governing first names, there are some provincial standards. Numbers and symbols are a no-no in British Columbia. Quebec is the most vigilant at monitoring given names and will change names that “invite ridicule.” In the past, the registrar has asked couples to reconsider the names Cowboy, Lucifer and Avalanche. And in a widely publicized case, parents unsuccessfully fought to name their son Spatule, arguing he was named after a bird, not the kitchen utensil.

The United States also has some jurisdiction over names. But let’s be honest: they don’t seem to be using it too often. Pilot Inspektor, Freedom and Moxie CrimeFighter would never be allowed in France or Iceland, and probably not even in Quebec.

Emma Waverman is a writer, blogger and mom to three kids. She has many opinions, some of them are fit to print. Read more of her articles here and follow her on Twitter @emmawaverman.

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