24 July 2008

Moon Unit Esq.

As someone who has had the awesome experience (in the true sense of the word) of giving another human being a name to be known by, I read with interest about the New Zealand judge who has drawn a line in the sand over the choice of names parents may give their children (story here). In such a subjective field, clearly one man's Matt is another man's Poison, but there can be few who wouldn't consider the newly-outlawed name Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii to be rather unusual. I don't know by what moniker the nine-year-old former Ms Hawaii goes by now, but it must certainly make school registration less onerous.

It has thrown open the debate on acceptable names, as this decision is just one of a number that the kiwi judiciary has been comfortable making in recent years to combat extreme parental boredom. It also reveals the arbitrary nature of what is deemed acceptable - apparently you can get away with calling your offspring Violence, Number 16 Bus Shelter and Benson & Hedges (twins), but not Sex Fruit, Stallion or Fish & Chips (twins). Such randomness seems almost as bizarre as wanting to call your child Yeah Detroit, another unacceptable name according to the NZ courts.

Casting my mind back to the naming process, while I don't think I would have been troubling the Registrar with Keenan Got Lucy or Cinderella Beauty Blossom, the desire to be different is certainly a strong one. While we may crave the anonymity of conformity for ourselves, we think our children so profoundly unique that they must stand apart from the crowd. Thus names such as John and Alan have dropped out of common usage altogether for the under 5s - instead replaced by herds of Freyas and Benjamins.

When considering these things, you have to think of the long game. Prince Harry's on-off girlfriend Chelsy Davy is clearly from posh stock, so imagine her parents feelings about the ubiquitousness of that name that must have seemed so other-worldly back in the 1980s. I recall hearing a distinctly non-ABC1 parent screaming "You-ni-ee" across a crowded TK Maxx at her errant daughter, no doubt sending the Mitford sisters spinning in their graves. Who knows whether similar fate will befall the Oscar of today in 20 years time. No doubt there were a few teenage Adolfs in the 1940s who felt the uncomfortable need to change their names. Under such circumstances, it is perhaps not surprising parents reach for ever surreal combinations of names. After all, if you met Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii, it seems certain you'd remember her, which is surely part of the point about being named.


PW said...

This one was due to feature on www.washedandreadytoeat.com, Hoffy, but you beat me to it. The shaded area on the blogging Venn diagram is always tricky territory. What I would say is that "Talula does the Hula" at least has some poetic value and a certain kitsch charm. Number 16 Bus Shelter, on the other hand, is just asking for trouble. What if the Number 16 service were discontinued? Or someone believed they were at liberty to smoke and snog behind you at any opportunity?

Mike Hoffman said...

I agree - after all, it makes her day-to-day name Talula Hawaii, which I think has a nice ring to it. Certainly a lot easier on the ear than, say, Casper Weinberger.