Friday, January 20, 2012

Naming your child

In the US, you can name your kid whatever you want, and the government won't do anything to stop you. Gwyneth Paltrow famously named her child "Apple". I'm sure you know many other examples... ("Valley" and "Lake"?) In Germany, I have been made aware of the fact that there are certain guidelines when naming your children, and the government tries to protect children from crazy parents. I've had really interesting conversations with people about this...about whether you are "damaged" or disadvantaged if you get a strange name from your parents.  And I see some points here...but the German guidelines seem really strange to me. For example, I heard from someone who wanted to name her son "Jannick", but at the time it was perceived as "too foreign." Now it's very popular. And the gender issue also strikes me as out-of-place. Read on...

When looking at the Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache [Society for German language] site about the "word of the year," I found something really interesting. They have a service (20 €) where they will look into a name, and decide whether or not they think it should be accepted, and then they will pass along this recommendation to the city hall (Standesamt). They say on the site that the city hall usually goes along with their decision.

Here are the guidelines they list on their site, when deciding whether a name should be recommended:

1.  The well-being of the child is the main priority of the giving of a first name.
2.  The gender of the child must - possibly through a middle name - be clear to determine
3. The name should be documented in serious, legitimate (seriös) sources (academic name literature, official documents, etc). Evidence from the internet is only conditionally accepted.
4.  The form of the name must be recognizable as a first name.

I find all of this really fascinating. What do you think? Do you think this should be regulated? Does this also say something about the US and Germany?

You may find this interesting...the most popular first names, in Germany and the US (Emma, Maria, Sophia are on both). It's always amusing which names are "classic," and cross the Atlantic divide, and which names are culturally specific. For example, no one is named "Lena" in the States, or "Sebastian," and, the other way around, "Gretchen" is an old lady name in Germany.


More here:


  1. Tres interessente!!!!

  2. Well, you can't really name your child anything you want, as a couple in New Jersey found out the hard way:

    And I hear men with the fifth most-popular name in America are above-average in terms of charm, wit and, of course, modesty.

  3. yeah, I remember hearing about that case. Oh man...
    And yes, William seems to never go out of style. But it's not one of the ones you hear in Germany anymore...Wilhelm is rather 19th-century Prussia. :)