Should parents be allowed to name their children any name they like?
Parents who tried to name their child Mafia No Fear are among hundreds who had their choice of name rejected in the past decade.
Justice was the most popular disallowed name, with royal titles, religious references and punctuation marks among names parents tried to bestow upon children.
A child and family psychologist who has even seen children named after illicit drugs says parents need to be more careful about stigmatising their kids.
A list provided by the Internal Affairs Department shows 350 parents had the names they chose for their offspring rejected in the 10 years ending June 30, 2011.
The list of disallowed names follows the release of the most popular names for 2011 – Liam and Ruby – this week. The most popular rejected name was Justice – 49 people tried to name their child that, along with alternate spellings Justus and Juztice.
Royal titles featured heavily – King, Prince, Princess, Knight, Queen, Queen V, Queen Victoria, Lord, Lady, Baron and Duke were all rejected as were Royal, Royale, Majesty and Majesti. Religious references Messiah, Christ, Bishop, Saint and Lucifer didn't make the cut either.
Mafia No Fear, Anal, V8, single letters, the Roman numerals I, II, III, punctuation symbols * . and / and titles such as President, Emperor, Chief, Constable, Sargent and General were also rejected.
Internal Affairs Department deputy registrar-general Ross McPherson said no names were banned, but they did have to fall within the bounds of the law.
"In general terms, people can register whatever names they like for their children. However, some rules do apply."
Names could not be more than 100 characters, use an unearned title, or be offensive to the general public, he said.
"A name can be rejected if it might cause offence to a reasonable person, or if it is, includes or resembles an official rank or title, or if it is unreasonably long. So, one couldn't, for example, register a swear word as a name for their child or couldn't, without adequate justification, register a name of Justice, Colonel or Royal."
Names also had to be actual words, not numbers or symbols.
Last year it was reported that the name Nevaeh – heaven backwards – had been questioned but ultimately allowed. Now it is the 38th most popular girls' name.
In 2008, Family Court Judge Rob Murfitt publicly criticised some parents' choice of names, after he ordered that a girl named Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii be taken into court custody so she could change her name.
Her name had not been registered in New Zealand, but other names such as Violence, Chardonnay and Number 16 Bus Shelter had been.
Mr McPherson said while the law did set parameters, names that might be considered embarrassing or unusual by some were allowed.
Child and family psychologist David Stebbings said he had worked with many children with unusual names, including some whose names were based on illicit drugs. Parents risked stigmatising their children by choosing unusual names because children want to be normal, he said.
Hefty titles like Princess or King could have a negative effect, and parents had to think about the name long term, not just as a baby.
"In reality, do you really want your child to be a princess – what does that translate to in real life?"
Names should be about the child, not the parents, he said. "You want to name your child in a way that represents who they are, not who you want them to be."
Most-denied names (July 1, 2001, to June 30, 2011)
Justice – 49
Princess – 24
King – 21
Prince – 20
Royal – 12
Duke – 7
Bishop – 7
Major – 6
J – 6
Lucifer – 6
Source: Internal Affairs Department
- © Fairfax NZ News
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