Why the government should regulate baby names
Ban dumb baby names!
I'm all for parental freedoms. Let the helicopter parents hover and the free-rangers regard their offspring as expendable poultry. It's all the same to me.
What I cannot abide, however, is a cruel trend that has ramped up in the last decade: giving babies silly names.
In an ego-fueled drive to seem original and innovative, moms and dads across the nation are setting their kids up for a lifetime of ridicule, and the headachy bureaucracy that comes with trying to change your moniker.
Americans are now naming their offspring after Pokémon Go characters, saddling kids with first names like Roselia and Onyx. Admittedly, these naming infractions aren't particularly heinous. But I'd bet my birth certificate that, right now, there are women excitedly gestating future Pikachus and Bulbasaurs.
Like most idiotic fashion statements, the craze for giving children stupid names has been buoyed by celebrities. Just last year, actress Zooey Deschanel (herself the victim of some avant-garde naming) saw fit to call her baby daughter Elsie Otter, explaining that otters are "cute and playful and fun. And they're really smart." Before that, Beyonce and Jay-Z brought the world Blue Ivy.
Add to these atrocities some of the worst recorded baby names of last year: Particularly enchanting were "Elizabreth" (no, really) and "Mhavrych" (pronounced "Maverick"). Parents across the U.S. are either flinging together random collections of letters or, more unsettlingly, looking to product manufacturers for inspiration. In 2014, 73 sets of parents put "Lexus" on their baby girl's birth certificate documents. In the same year, seven boys were called Disney. And in 2015, exactly 100 girls were named Tesla.
Please make it stop. I'll go to Donald Trump if I have to. The one despotic law change I could get behind in that lunatic's neo-fascist America is an officially sanctioned list of names. Of course, if Trump were actually to design a law federally mandating a name list, it would likely consist of less than 10 choices, all of which would be Anglo Saxon and most of which would be variations on Donald. That's not really what I'm after. I'd just like a law that says, at its heart, "Don't call your baby Meldor or Little Sweetmeat or Beberly." (Those are actual real baby names.) Fail to act, America, and today's babies will grow up harboring the sort of issues that will make our current hypersensitive crop of safe space-seeking, easily triggered teens seem well adjusted.
Naming restrictions in the U.S. are decided by state but are, on the whole, extremely loose. The laws that do exist are more about practicality than safeguarding kids from humiliation. A few states, for instance, have a maximum character count because of the software they use for record keeping. And a few have banned numbers and pictograms. But some in states, like Kentucky, there are no restrictions on what you can and can't call your children.
Lawmakers should perhaps look to our European allies for inspiration. Until the early 1990s, French parents had to pick their newborn's name from a government-approved list. The Germans — presumably to safeguard against neo-Nazis birthing little Adolfs — still employ some tight naming restrictions. In Angela Merkel's kingdom, surnames and product names are banned, and there's a fair chance that your suggestion will be thrown out by local bureaucrats if they think it will negatively affect the child. Good on them.
Back in 1998, a Norwegian woman was thrown in jail for two days for refusing to pay a fine after calling her 13th child "Gesher," meaning "bridge." Possibly, this was a bridge too far. But I can't help but admire any country that values children's self-esteem over parental whimsy.