Monday, February 09, 2009

Threw the Book at Him

Unlike the free world, you can’t name your kid anything you want in Germany. It has to be a recognized name that’s appropriate to the child’s sex and not dreamed up on your last gin bender. Thus there is no Moon Unit or 4Real; and no, unlike a New Jersey couple, you can’t name your child Adolf Hitler. The only exception is for foreigners. I was allowed to name my son Miles because as a foreigner I’m not subject to the great book of names. (I do have to suffer the very original joke about Lufthansa’s frequent flier program in regard to Miles’s name, but by not laughing I try to teach by example.)

Although German parents can’t name their kids Apple, there aren’t restrictions on how many names they can give him/her/it. This struck me today as the country got a new economics minister named Karl-Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg. Especially charming is the last name “von und zu Guttenberg,” meaning “from and to Guttenberg.” He can’t decide. All those names have confused him.

Kind of makes you dizzy, no? And a little sick to your stomach?


t.t. millers said...

I have a neighbor who came from Germany many, many years ago. She told me a similar story, but I thought perhaps that law had changed since then. Guess Not?!

Anonymous said...

I didn't realize this about Germany. I wonder if Switzerland has similar restrictions.

It's another reason to be grateful for the freedoms we have in the US. May they remain.


Anonymous said...

There's a country, I think Iceland, that has a restriction where there are certain names that are approved for each year. So that one year the name be valid and the next not. Hopefully there is some lead time when the approved names list is published. It would make it difficult, or perhaps exciting, to have a child on the New Year.

Liz said...

I wanted 'Christina' as my 'confirmation' name and was told
by the teacher that the Bishop wouldn't accept it as too Spain each person has 2surnames, when I explain I only have one to admin. people, they nod
and double it on whatever form I'm filling in... : )

SarahJane said...

well, as much as i think you should be able to name your child whatever you want, i appreciate what the regulation tries to do - protect the child. still.
i think it's crazy that some names are only approved some years. in fact i find it hard to believe. i mean, people pick family names for their children, too, and if dead granddad's name was Alois and baby boy's mother wants baby to be Alois he should be Alois.
Liz - it's a catholic thing for sure. In the case of the econ minister i mention it's an addled elitist catholic thing. I'd be embarrassed.

Rachel Mallino said...

hahaa - Liz, I had to "take" a name, too - being an ex-catholic and all. I always thought one had to choose a biblical name - is Christina a biblical name? I chose Elizabeth - it was my grandmother's name.

Still, the name rule doesn't bother me so much as some other "rules" the US has.

SarahJane said...

I think it can also be a saint's name, which makes it more interesting. But I'm not Catholic and can't confirm.

Anonymous said...

There is a Dutch soccer player for Glasgow Celtic named Jan Venegoor of Hesselink. 'Of' meainng 'or' in Dutch. The Celtic fans were dismayed to find it more than doubled the cost of a replica shirt if they have his name on it. I bet they are glad they did not sign a German!
I had friend called Ball and despite my en treatments refused to name his first born "Bouncing" or "Rubber" or "Foot" or...

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