Not all names are created equal: Here’s how names are regulated in Iceland vs. the US

Toilet Queen, Ghoul Nipple, Sexy Chambers, Leper and Cholera are just a few names people in the U.S. have given their children.

And, yes, these are real names. Michael Sherrod and Matthew Rayback, the authors of “Bad Baby Names: The Worst True Names Parents Saddled Their Kids With—and You Can Too!” searched through U.S. census records to find these names.

 “A lot of countries will monitor names they think are just bad for the child.”
Carlton Larson

But a lot of these names just wouldn’t fly in other countries.

“A lot of countries will monitor names they think are just bad for the child,” explained Carlton Larson, a law professor at the University of California Davis.

In Iceland for instance, there’s a special act, the Personal Names Act No. 45, that regulates what and when parents can name a child.

Here are just a few of the requirements:

  • Children have to be given gender-specific names.
  • Parents can’t name their children something embarrassing.
  • Names can’t conflict with the “linguistic structure of Icelandic.”

There’s even a committee that decides whether a child’s given name is embarrassing.

But in the U.S., Larson said the laws for naming can vary from state to state. In most states, Larson added, the laws tend to limit the length of a name, certain diacritical marks or obscenities.

“They’re not as addressed to the substance of a name as much they are the form,” Larson said of U.S. naming laws.

Larson said the problem with that is “we allow a lot of really bad names that other countries don’t allow.”

Some names he added, can actually be destructive to the child’s physiological well-being.

“The U.S. is much more permissive in the sense that we allow a lot of really bad names that other countries don’t allow.”

Carlton Larson

In Larson’s 2011 “Naming Baby: The Constitutional Dimensions of Parental Naming Rights,” he points to an instance that made national headlines in 2008.

When Deborah Campbell called her local New Jersey supermarket to order a cake for her 3-year-old son, the store declined her request. That’s because she asked for the supermarket to inscribe “happy birthday,” along with her son’s name, Adolf Hitler Campbell, on the cake.

While the name “Adolf Hitler Campbell” may seem out of the realm of acceptable names for a child, it didn’t violate New Jersey’s statutory laws at the time.

Although that name and many others may be completely legal names in the U.S., various studies have shown that a child’s name can actually affect his or her future success.

study by Marquette University found that people with common names are more likely to be hired. And uncommon names are more likely to be associated with crime, according to a study published by Shippensburg University.

Larson said this is why parents should take naming their children very seriously.

“This is a big decision you have to make for your kid and it will stick with them, probably, for the rest of their life,” he said.

So, if you’re expecting any time soon, maybe take a look at the list of most popular baby names of 2017 for inspiration.

Read more stories from Alix Hines on Circa.

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