No, Madam, you cannot name your child “Godzilla”

In Austria, it is illegal to give your child offensive or crazy names. Illegal in the sense that the registrar simply won’t let you register the name. Apparently in America (the land of the free) you can abuse your kid with any kind of madness (“Green Jello”? No problem!).

There is a back door for foreigners. An American couple in Austria were allowed to call their daughter “Vienna,” for example. This may sound like a cute name to your ears, but I guess for Austrians it would be like naming your kid “New York.” (David Beckham famously called his first son “Brooklyn.”) Still, they draw the line at “Sau,”which is a perfectly nice Chinese name, apparently, but in German means “pig.” Alas, “Godzilla” is verboten too.

Advertisements

21 thoughts on “No, Madam, you cannot name your child “Godzilla”

  1. Ronan, Brooklyn, Dallas, Houston, Austin, and presumably other geographical names are completely legitimate and also very common American first names. My own brother is named Austin.

    I know that this post is funny but doesn’t it concern you that a functionary in some random office in Vienna has a veto power over what you could name your own child if you were Austrian? Is it really desirable to make sure that all Austrians have traditional names? What about religious people who are Austrians? If an Austrian — so not a foreigner — converts to Islam and wants to give their child a perfectly decent Arabic or other Middle-Eastern name, should a bureaucrat be able to refuse it? Obviously, I believe this should absolutely not be the case. This type of control tendency seems far more intrusive than anything the despised U.S. government does, even when Republicans are in power.

    Like

  2. John – it’s past funny – it’s sad – Ronan wasn’t kidding about Greenjello. His twin was called Orangejello. (info from the book ‘Freakonomics’) I understand the resistance to having anyone else having a say over what you name your child, but the above examples show it may not always be a bad thing. How on earth will those boys ever be taken seriously throughout their life?

    Like

  3. I agree that fretting about “Vienna” seems weird, although apparently it did “pass.” But no parent has the “right” to call their child “pig.” Full stop.

    I think there must be issues like this in the UK. I’m pretty sure you cannot call your child “God,” for example.

    Like

  4. Ronan,

    The naming of children is certainly one area where we Americanos are a little too free-wheeling for a European’s taste.

    A former governor of Texas, James ‘Big Jim’ Hogg named his only daughter Ima. She became an accomplished and influential woman. You can read about her here.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ima_Hogg

    Like

  5. Also from the Wiki –

    God Shammgod. American basketball player, who played one season in the NBA after being picked by the Washington Wizards in the 2nd round (17th pick) of the 1997 NBA Draft. He was born on April 29, 1976 in New York City.

    Like

  6. Is it true it’s illegal to name your child Adolf in Germany?

    My mother chose the most common names there are for her children (Barbara, Jennifer, William, Daniel, Susan—the only exception is Darryl, but he was named for his father). I asked her once why she did so (it always bummed me out, being a Susie), and she said she just wanted something in her life that was normal. I couldn’t complain after that.

    Like

  7. I take that back. You Brits can hold you own with us in the wierd name department. David Bowie named his offsping Zowie, and, holy cow, check out what Sir Bob Geldof names his kids –
    Fifi Trixibelle Geldof, and Peaches Honeyblossom Michelle Charlotte Angel Vanessa Geldof. There oughta be a law!

    Like

  8. Parents ought to think really hard about what to name their children, because it might end up traumatizing them for the rest of their lives,

    Josh

    Like

  9. “Is it true it’s illegal to name your child Adolf in Germany?”

    I don’t know for sure, but I doubt it. Although this much I do know: Hitler himself passed a decree not to overdo it with either his first name or even his last name, e.g., Hitlerina.

    John,

    I rank this bureaucratic interference as just slightly less offensive than the Meldepflicht for Austrian “public” television, with its numerous enough commercial breaks inbetween American sitcoms.

    But at least if you get saddled with a name you don’t like in Austria, you can always change it, for about 500 euros.

    Like

  10. I am just glad that someone in Nevada had the nerve to tell my in-laws that they absolutely could not name my husband Jesus or Satan. (Jesus would have been fine had they been even remotely of Spanish descent.)

    Like

  11. Rebecca #2, from Freakonomics we also know that having an unusual first name has, on average, no effect on a person’s economic life. So maybe Orangejello isn’t the serious disaster that it seems; maybe it’s just odd.

    Like

  12. Is the Austrian obligation with regard to being able to watch public t.v. as expensive as the TV tax here in England (which, if I recall correctly, was in the area of £130 [$360] per year)?

    Like

  13. Careful, John, I sense a bit of a moan brewing. First rule of living in England: pay the TV license cheerfully. With eleven BBC radio stations (plus local radio) and eight TV channels (some digital) — all commercial free and good — it’s worth it. Also, the BBC is a major backer of Freeview which adds some good commercial TV to the mix.

    Like

  14. I might add an interesting quirk: where we lived in Baltimore there was a de facto “TV tax.” Terrestrial reception was so rubbish you had to pay for cable or satellite just to watch network or public TV!

    Like

  15. John,

    But how many of those names are geographical, and how many are named after other people for whom the geographical site is itself named? I.e., if I name a son Houston, am I naming him after the city, or after Sam Houston (for whom the city itself was named)? Similar questions come up with Jefferson, Madison, Austin, Virginia, and so on.

    Like

  16. John,

    The tv tax in Vienna is about 240 euros/year (varies by Bundesland), so about the same as in England. You just get less for your money–three tv channels, one of which lacks any merit and none are commercial free, and four radio stations, of which two are indistinguishable from their top 40 relatives in the US.

    Like

  17. John – 130GBP doesn’t equal $360!! Even with just going through the $2=1GBP, that makes $260. (or maybe it was a typo!?)

    and the BBC – totally worth paying for advert-free, great TV. The same cannot be said for Austria – Peter’s right. It sucks!

    Like

  18. Yeah, a typo — thanks for correcting it.

    We saw lots of commercials on the only four tv stations that our rental tv got while we were waiting for our stuff to arrive six weeks late. (Now we don’t have a tv since the rental got carted away when our container arrived, but naturally without any electronics that wouldn’t be compatible between the US and UK.) So I am confused when you say that the tv is commercial free.

    Kaimi, I think that when someone is named those things today, it is usually with reference to the geographical place rather than to the person the geographical place was originally named for.

    Like

  19. headlife — the technicalities of British TV blog!

    I think this has been explained above or on the other post, but it’s **the BBC** that is commercial-free. So, via analogue that’s two of the five (not four) channels plus a load of radio stations. On Freeview digital (all you need is a digital set or a converter — about 25 quid), the amount of commercial-free BBC channels goes up to seven. There’s also an increase in the number of commercial channels.

    Like

Comments are closed.