In Greenville and Malm¬Ø, babies are coming. Ed and Lisa and my brother and his wife are all expecting 2005 stork-editions. Naming those babies is gonna be tricky. Armenian-Norwegian and Pakistani-Danish combo babies have all those weird amalgamation of consonants to contend with. Of course, I take a lot of interest in all that gives my friends and family cultural headaches.
My brother was visting this past weekend and we talked about naming the baby. He said that the baby can have 2 first and 2 last names in Denmark. So, they can literally combine the two cultural heritages. I was quite skeptical about a 4 word name but he appeared nonchalant. We will just have a good name from the Qur’an and a good Danish name, he proclaimed.
Today’s NYT tells me that he may have some problem convincing the Kirkeministeriet if they choose an obscure Arabic name. The article on Danish naming laws and convention was quite the revelation for me:
At its heart, the Law on Personal Names is designed to protect Denmark’s innocents – the children who are undeservedly, some would say cruelly, burdened by preposterous or silly names. It is the state’s view that children should not suffer ridicule and abuse because of their parents’ lapses in judgment or their misguided attempts to be hip. Denmark, like much of Scandinavia, prizes sameness, not uniqueness, just as it values usefulness, not frivolousness.
People expecting children can choose a pre-approved name from a government list of 7,000 mostly Western European and English names – 3,000 for boys, 4,000 for girls. A few ethnic names, like Ali and Hassan, have recently been added. But those wishing to deviate from the official list must seek permission at their local parish church, where all newborns’ names are registered. A request for an unapproved name triggers a review at Copenhagen University’s Names Investigation Department and at the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs, which has the ultimate authority. The law only applies if one of the parents is Danish.
So, I used my rudimentary Danish skills and found the list. I gotta say, I like this system. Naming your child is a treacherous path and, for fear of abject failure, I would like to have the option of trusting a bureaucracy. They must have done serious research to get a list that would not induce scat-humor or beat-downs in the school yards. They must have a bully-version of names that get checked on school playgrounds. They must poll 13 year old boys on snicker-worthy monikers. The divine and profane names must live in adjacent lists. I want to see that other list as well.
My advice to the brother is to apply early.