A child by any other name would sound as sweet.
France recently banned parents from naming their children “Nutella” and “Fraise”. But in Ontario, parents have free rein to name their kids after whatever dessert they choose.
A Consumer Services ministry spokeswoman says names cannot contain numerals or symbols (sorry Prince) but otherwise, it’s up to the parent.
“Choosing a name for a baby is something parents give a great deal of thought to and it’s their responsibility,” said Anne-Marie Flanagan.
“We absolutely live in a very diverse society . . . something may have a different meaning in a different culture.”
But elsewhere, a baby’s name isn’t such a private matter.
Gwyneth Paltrow may be able to name her daughter Apple but in France, food is out.
La Voix du Nord reported that a French court ruled parents could not name their daughter Nutella because it was “not in the interest of the child.” Instead, the court decided the little girl should be named Ella.
And on Tuesday, a different French court vetoed the name “Fraise” (strawberry) because it had an “air of mockery.” The parents compromised, by naming her Fraisine, a once-popular name in 19th-century France.
But France isn’t the only country with strict guidelines about baby names.
New Zealand has banned such names as Anus, Lucifer and “Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii,” probably for the best.
Only two Canadian provinces ban baby names on the grounds they might embarrass the child. Under Quebec law, the Registrar of Civil Status can “invite” parents to change a child’s name if they fear it might invite ridicule.
If parents disagree, and the registrar believes it could be a “serious inconvenience for the child,” it can go to court, said David McKeown, a spokesman for Quebec’s Social Services ministry.
In 1998, an Anglophone couple went to court in order to be able to name their daughter Ivory. The province had objected on the grounds it was not in the “Québécois tradition,” and that in French Ivory is a bar of soap. The parents appealed and won.
In B.C., the Vital Statistics Act allows courts to reject names if they may cause embarrassment or confusion, but the court rarely intervenes. In 1983, the court did rule that parents, who belonged to the Plymouth Brethren fundamentalist Christian sect, could not name their child “God’s Loving Kindness” because it was a phrase, not a name.
In other countries, names also must fit with the national character.
In Portugal, the Institute of Registration publishes an approved list of baby names in Portuguese. Aaron is banned (presumably because it’s in English) but Abdénago is OK.
Iceland, too, has a registry of names which must conform to the country’s Nordic tongue. In 2014, the 12-year-old daughter of a British expat had her passport revoked because her name, Harriet, did not conform to the country’s naming laws, the Guardian reported.
Names must contain only letters found in the Icelandic alphabet and be able to be conjugated according to the grammar.
- With files from Toronto Star staff