Bj¯rn Burhan

Posted by sepoy on October 08, 2004 · 3 mins read

In Greenville and Malm¯, 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:

In Denmark, a country that embraces rules with the same gusto that Italy defies them, choosing a first and last name for a child is a serious, multitiered affair, governed by law and subject to the approval of the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs and the Ministry of Family and Consumer Affairs.
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.


Cheeni | October 08, 2004

This story would be a little gross, but topical then:

cheeni | October 08, 2004

I just realized that you have no spam protection on your blog. Could you please obfuscate my email address on the previous comment, and then get rid of this comment?

desesperanto | October 08, 2004

France also had laws about naming for a long time -- only saints' names were legal or soemthign like that. What the world really needs is a list of PC Indian names without religious connotations, so people won't be reduced to thamizhanbazhagan or whatever.

sepoy | October 08, 2004

cheeni: i do not display email addys on CM. So, you are safe.

Chan'ad | October 08, 2004

National naming policies are always very interesting to study. I seem to recall a case of a woman in Libya at around the time of the '91 Gulf War who wanted to name her son "Scud", but I think the authorities denied her, so she had to settle for "Saddam" or something. I'll see if I can find an online reference.

dani | October 09, 2004

a quick perusal of the list shows your brother could safely name a male child after several historical figures (apollo, attila, erasmus, napoleon, romeo), a thing (ferry, paw, turf), a defining characteristic (manly, odd), or the long lost eighth dwarf (snorri, wiggo, seppo, buster, zapp). none of which are the least bit humiliating.

s¯nee | October 14, 2004

As a foreigner in Denmark ; you can give any name to your child ! There are no restrictions as such. But in case of Junaid i suggested him , 'Muhammad Ubqari Penge Dahl'.. :)