Friday, May 17, 2013

What's In A Name?


"What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet."


Despite Juliet’s impassioned speech to Romeo, names can add color and feeling.  The word, koru, for example, evokes far more mystery than fern.
Koru comes from the Māori, descendants of New Zealand’s first human inhabitants, who arrived from Polynesia during the latter half of the thirteenth century.  Māori, which means normal or natural, expresses their relationship with the land and that relationship is prominent in Māori art.  The koru, or unfolding frond, is frequently seen in this art and symbolizes growth, harmony and life.   Interestingly, kore means nothingness and is part of New Zealand’s creation story, which claims that all life, even that of the gods, sprang from kore. 


Given this wealth of lore and meaningful names, I was surprised to read that New Zealand had recently updated its list of banned names.  Quite honestly, I had never realized that they had one.  While I might question the wisdom of some names that parents bestow upon their children, I never saw it as a matter for legislation.    One of the principles governing naming restrictions is that they may not resemble a title.  Princess, Duke and King have been banned.  I've had dogs bearing those names and though I have never favored them as prospective baby names, I wouldn't criticize any parent, who made that choice.  Justice and Majesty are prohibited for the same reason.  Names should not be considered offensive by a reasonable person.  I’m not sure how that is determined, but Lucifer is not permitted.   I'm tempted to note that millions of reasonable people have laughed over the antics of Lucifer, the cat in Disney’s version of Cinderella.  Is it only offensive for humans?  Babies can’t be named Christ either, although I didn't see Jesus on the list.   

Some claim the restrictions prevent parents from using names that might cause future psychological harm to their child.  I find it hard to believe that otherwise healthy, happy children will be traumatized by a name.  Possum might not be a child’s name of choice, but it probably won't harm him.  It might even inspire agile tree climbing or the adoption of Possum Merino Clothing as a signature style.    Remember that Johnny Cash song, A Boy Named Sue?   

Parents determine their children’s educational institutions, religious affiliations and medical care providers.  They can raise them to be carnivores or vegans.  They can dress their infants in 100 percent cotton or polyester or Merino Baby Clothes, but they can't name them Jr or Honour or MJ.    I don't find that reasonable.

Surely, the government has better things to do with their time than review name applications from prospective parents.  How about better regulation and enforcement of building codes and Home Insulation standards?  Reportedly, over three-quarter million New Zealand homes are poorly insulated and hundreds linked to illness and death each winter.  Surely that’s more relevant to a child’s well being than any name.   The funniest and saddest part of this law is its inconsistencies.  You can't name your child 4real, but Number 16 Bus Shelter is considered an acceptable moniker.  Is this law 4real?



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