This week, news surfaced that a Chinese couple tried to name their baby "@," — the symbol used in e-mail addresses to signify "at" — because the English pronunciation sounds similar to the Mandarin phrase "love him." Several weeks ago, we commented in a "Nobles and Knaves" editorial on the Wheatons, a New Zealand couple who wanted to name their baby "4Real." Their petition was denied, and in response, Mr. and Mrs. Wheaton have settled on "Superman" for their son instead.
A strange trend has been developing over the past several years pushing parents to come up with increasingly odd names for their children. It seemed to start with celebrities, who gave their youngsters names like Moxie Crimefighter (that's from Penn Jillette of "Penn and Teller" fame) or Diva Thin Muffin Pigeon (one of Frank Zappa's daughters). People used to name their children after family members or religious figures. But some seem to want one-of-a-kind names that nobody else on the playground will have. The playground won't be much fun when they're being teased about being called GoldenPalaceDotCom. (Seriously. The Golden Palace casino paid a couple to name their newborn after its Web site.)
But some parents are hitting roadblocks. The Wheatons in New Zealand had to petition the government's name registry in order to bypass the country's naming laws. Denmark, for example, has a list of 7,000 approved names from which parents can choose. Mexico, Sweden and France, just to name a few, also have restrictions on what parents can name their kids. In the United States, it seems, everything is fair game.
Finding unique and uncommon names for children is not inherently a bad thing. We certainly wouldn't encourage government restrictions on names. But this apparent contest for the most ridiculous first name is embarrassing. If an adult wants to change their name, they should, by all means. ("Jonathan Lee Riches" did, and he's made quite a name for himself with the outlandish civil law suits he has filed from prison, the most recent against indicted Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick. "Mr. Riches" claims that Mr. Vick stole his pet pit bulls to sell on e-Bay for his dog-fighting venture and is asking for "$63,000,000,000 billion.") We would just hope that loving parents wouldn't burden their children with a childhood of teasing and bullying.