Hawaiian Woman With 36-Letter Name Wins 21-Year Battle to Have It Printed on Government Documents

Here’s an interesting BBC story (see link below) about a woman who acquired a name with 36 letters and 19 syllables in 1992 via marriage. (Her maiden name was Worth.) Janice Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele’s name is so long, it will not fit on government documents. So, she has been fighting the government for 21 years for the right to have her married name printed on her driver’s license. Apparently, she’s finally succeeded.

If you like stories about people fighting for their rights, you may enjoy the article. As noble as her cause may be, I’m an advocate of selecting names that create a positive impression and that are a pleasure to use every day for the child, the parents (and in this case) for the wife. Clearly, her married surname has been more of a struggle or burden than pleasure.

Instead of shortening the name so it would work better for her and others, she chose to fight. I wonder if she’ll be as happy now as she was before she won the right to have her un-spellable and un-pronounceable name printed on government documents.

One of the issues that comes up in dating is how “geographically desirable” the person you’ve just met might be for you. Now I realize that there is another issue in dating that is worth considering: whether the person you just met is onomastically desirable.

BBC News – Long-named US woman celebrates government climb-down.

New Tennessee Judge Rules Baby Messiah Can Keep His Name

Judge Telford E. Forgety, Jr. of Tennesse has ruled that baby Messiah can keep his name. He reversed the ruling by Tennessee Judge Lu Ann Ballew who ruled that Messah wasn’t a name; it was a title. She believes there is only one Messiah (Jesus Christ), and no one else can use that title.

Judge Forgety made the ruling on the basis of the “establishment clause” of the U.S. Constitution which holds that the U.S. Government is prohibited from favoring one religion over another.

What it all boils down to is that Messiah DeShawn McCullough is now the legal name of a 7-month old baby whose mother picked the name Messiah because she thought it went well with his last name, “McCullough.” Of course, there’s no evidence to support the claim that Messiah goes any better with McCullough than Martin (the name Judge Ballew gave the child).

Many other countries around the world have laws that govern which names are fit for children and which aren’t. But Americans aren’t prohibited from giving their children pompous names like Messiah, King, or Prince. In fact, the popularity of all three names were among the fastest rising names on the top-1,000 boys’ list for 2012 published by the Social Security Administration, which keeps track of which names are “hot” and which names are “not,” but doesn’t favor one Messiah over another.

Makes you wonder what kind of people would give their child a name that had absolutely no basis in reality. I suppose the answer to that question is self-evident, if you give it a little thought. But I’d rather give you the pleasure of figuring it out for yourself.

How Do People Dream Up Strange or Awful Names? The Stories Behind the Names

Did you ever wonder how ordinary people come up with names that seem so strange or awful to you? I’ve been writing about strange and awful celebrity baby names for years. I just read an article from the San Jose Mercury News by Jessica Yadegaran that provides the stories behind a number of names–some of which strike me as strange or awful, and some are OK.  What amazes me is the “logic” parents use that results in names with a high probability of creating difficulties for the child.

For example one story tells of a mother who turned over the task of naming a brand-new baby to her three children. Although the kids thought of naming the baby girl Trigger, the name of cowboy Roy Roger’s horse,they settled on Nancy, from a popular comic strip carried in their local newspaper. The three kids picked an OK name, but the result could have been awful. Below are three sample stories from the article. Decide for yourself if the names are OK, strange or go all the way to awful. (To read the entire article, click on the link below.)

I was born in 1960 right after an epic hurricane hit central Florida. Nope, I was not named Donna after the storm. But apparently the low pressure system got to my parents, and they did the Southern thing: Let’s just smash names together. Thus, their names, Lorraine plus Ray, became Loray.

The questions came. Not a nickname? Your dad wanted a boy, huh? I’m not Lori or Leroy or Larry. The first-day-of-school role call? Nightmare. Plus, the disappointment of never finding my name on a personalized souvenir rack. As a child, I wished I’d been named after the dang storm.

But, as an adult, I’ve grown into and now celebrate my unique brand. It’s a perfect ice breaker when I meet someone new. I can tell them the story of how I got my name. My children’s names? The first gift I gave them was a mainstream, impossible-to-mispronounce label: Shane, Drew, Grant and Kelly. And I can find them all personalized souvenirs at Fisherman’s Wharf.

— Loray Hibbard Hawkins, 52, Danville

It actually took quite a bit of work to come up with my son’s name. I had to get “joint approval” from his mother, older brother and sister. To clarify, he is my first child. I remember that I finally received approval from them at La Victoria Taqueria in downtown San Jose.

It is kind of molded from the name DeAngelo, which I really liked, but I still wanted it to be different. Since he is my mom’s first grandson, he is in a sense hers, so from that comes De Rosario, her name.

Since he is a boy, I then took off what I thought was the “feminine” part of my mom’s name “Ros” and added a “Z.” The Z is capitalized and stands for one of Mexico’s greatest leaders, Emiliano Zapata. It is there to stand out and always remind him of his Mexican culture.

— Miguel Burciaga, San Jose (father of DeZario Agustin Burciaga, 6)

My parents blessed me with a wonderful name, and I wanted to do the same for my son. I am a lifelong lacrosse player and coach. Lacrosse is a Native American game, and I have a tremendous love and respect for the Iroquois, who still play lacrosse today.

When researching Native American names and historical figures I came across Deganawida, who, according to Native American lore, is the figure that brought peace to the Six Nations of the Iroquois. His name means the “two river currents flowing together,” but he is more widely known as “the Great Peacemaker.”

I convinced my wife to go with the shortened version of his name that we use on a daily basis, Degan (pronounced “day-gone”). But we put his full name, Deganawidah Teodoro Rodriguez, on his birth certificate. The h was added to his name when I was filling out the forms at the hospital. One of my brothers convinced me that it was the proper spelling of the name, although to this day I have never seen anything to back up his claim. Well, my son is stuck with it now!– Iliad Thor Rodriguez, 45, San Jose

via Baby names: Where does your name come from? – San Jose Mercury News.

What Children’s Names Say to Teachers about Children and Their Mothers

Katie Hopkins is making waves in Ireland with a new book called The Class Book of Baby Names, which describes the personality characteristics that often accompany popular names.

I thought it might be interesting to highlight some of the book’s findings which should be relevant to North Americans teachers who are calling roll and getting first impressions of their new students; and to North American expectant parents who are thinking about what to name their babies.

Below I am quoting from a recent article in the Irish Examiner written about Katie Hopkins and her new book by Caroline Delaney. I want to point out that some of the names which have an unruly, lower-class image in Ireland may not have the same image in North America. For that reason I will only use quotes which mention a small number of Irish names which come across in pretty much the same way in North America and Ireland:

“A child’s name is the first impression you have. That impression is usually validated by the mother standing behind it. It isn’t just the child’s name, is it? It is the manner in which its mother yells it across the playground,” Hopkins says.

Hopkins is scathing about the name Ashlee: “Show me an Ashlee. I will show you a large mum in leggings and with a [large U.K. discount chain] bag twice the size of her latest baby.”

A few teachers interviewed for this piece declined to be named, but said they had preconceptions about names. Many of the names they listed as potential troublemakers were altered spellings of more typical names. Poor Kacee, Brandii and Ashlee may be lovely girls, but they have to work extra hard to prove it to some teachers.

When pressed further, these teachers said they feared that parents who broke with tradition in naming their children would also bend rules on drop-off times, neatness and homework.

As it happens one of the questions I am often asked is what I think about names with unique spellings (like Brandii). The first thing that comes to mind is that parents who pick those names seem to think that having a “unique name” will make their children “unique individuals,” as if by magic. I also mention the inconvenience and bother of having a name that is rarely spelled right and often mispronounced. To the tell the truth, I don’t usually say that a name like Kacee, Ashlee or Brandii is a tell-tale sign of lower social class. Why? It’s a comment that’s likely to create bad feelings (because it’s often true). That’s why Hopkin’s book is making waves in Ireland.

One reason I’m so interested in this subject is that back in 1990 I wrote I wrote a pioneering book called The Baby Name Personality Survey based on a large-sample survey conducted by co-author Barry Sinrod that provided research-based personality profiles for 1,400 popular names. Although the profiles mentioned names that created an aristocratic image (like Montgomery) and names that created a blue-collar image (like Arnie) we carefully avoided anything that might come across as “hurtful” (to the extent possible).

I’ve retitled that book several times over the years. Much of the survey information is now available in a The 5-Star Baby Name Advisor, which uses the research to suggest names that could benefit your child and names that could be a hindrance. Needless to say, characteristics of names that are likely to be a hindrance include: names which create negative impressions, names that are difficult to spell and names that are hard to pronounce.

Brussels Prevents Israeli Couple From Naming Baby “Jerusalem”

I’m linking this article because I found it interesting that famed legal scholar and political pundit, Jonathan Turley, would be writing about baby names. Apparently the city of Brussels didn’t like the name “Jerusalem”–not because of a theological issue (as in the recent “Messiah” flap) or a religious rights issue (as in last year’s “JesusIsLord ChristIsKing religious liberty flap) but because it isn’t on the list of permitted names in Brussels.

The Israeli couple picked the name Alma Jerusalem for their daughter because they were from Jerusalem and missed the place, among other reasons. One of the responses to the article (on JonathanTurley.org) pointed out that many common Dutch surnames (like Van Damme and Van de Velde) mean “from” (Van) a particular town or geographic area. So objecting that a name selected by an Israeli couple who are from Jerusalem and miss Jerusalem does not seem to be consistent with Dutch naming customs.

To me, the religious names that have received adverse rulings in Tennessee and New York are a major disservice to the child (which was not cited as the rationale for either ruling). It’s hard to see Alma Jerusalem as anything but nostalgia. Does Jerusalem meet my standards (for useful middle names) of being a reasonable “fallback” name in case Alma doesn’t work well (for whatever reason)? No.

I’m not impressed by either Alma or Jerusalem. But I don’t think either name will cause practical problems (for the child) or religious problems for the couple or for citizens of Brussels anything remotely like the kind of problems Messiah (an inflated title) or JesusIsLord (a bumper-sticker name) would rain down on the children whose parents picked them.

Dear Bruce: What Do You Think of Religious Names Like Messiah?

I’ve written two posts in the last week about a Judge in Tennessee who prevented a mother from naming her baby boy Messiah and a judge in New York who prevented a family from changing their family name to ChristIsKing and naming their boy JesusIsLord ChristIsKing and their girl Rejoice ChristIsKing.

The main focus of the articles was on the legal rationales for preventing parents from using those names. So I’m happy to respond to the question.

There are several problems with the name Messiah. In fact, a boy named Messiah is neither The Messiah nor is he a messiah–any more than naming your child King or Prince would make him a real king or a real prince. So the name is misleading. It may mislead the child into thinking he is something he isn’t. And it will create the impression that the mother thinks her son is The Messiah or a messiah. (When interviewed, Messiah’s mother thought the name went well with the child’s siblings names–which began with the letter “M”).

And because the name is misleading, it makes a silly or ridiculous
impression to others and to the child. People who believe they are The Messiah or a messiah are sent to psychiatrists for treatment. They are deemed not to be in touch with reality. How can a name like Messiah be healthy for a child or an adult? (Likewise, how can a name like King, Queen, Prince, Princess–or IAmTheGreatest! be healthy for a child?)

There are several problems with the names JesusIsLord (as a given name) and ChristIsKing (as a family name). Both “names” are statements of the parents’ religious faith. They are similar in nature to the statements on signs outside churches announcing the title of a Sunday sermon and to bumper stickers pasted on the back fenders of cars. In the same way that Ypsilanti is the name of a town in Michigan, but doesn’t come across as attractive or appropriate as the name for a child (in comparison, say, to Paris or Siena or Madison), statements of belief neither sound like names nor function like names.

And think about what it would be like to have a name that comes across as a “bumper sticker” for a religious belief–which the parents may hold but the baby is in no position to affirm or abandon until he or she is an adult. Many people doubt the faith of their parents and ultimately pick their own religious or spiritual path through life. It seems highly disrespectful of parents to stick a bumper-sticker name like that on a young child. It’s a little like naming a child Liberal or Conservative or Monarchist or Anarchist–names that reflect political or philosophical positions that the baby has no way to understand or affirm until adulthood.

I haven’t mentioned either the embarrassment problem or the teasing and bullying problem that the parents of Messiah and JesusIsLord ChristIsKing and Rejoice ChristIsKing would have caused to rain down on their children every day of their lives–if those names had remained in effect. These names are more than embarrassing; they would put children in a position to suffer hostile words and, possibly “sticks and stones” from people their children know and people their children don’t know.

One final point: I don’t think Rejoice is as objectional a given name as either JesusIsLord or Messiah. Rejoice suggests the parents were happy she was born (like the names Glory or Gloria). Although it doesn’t sound much like a name, it’s more awkward than awful. But when anyone speaks the child’s full name: Rejoice ChristIsKing you’ve got a bumper sticker that would be a tremendous burden for any child to bear.