Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hello! My Name Is [UNAPPROVED]!

On my to-do list for today is, "Find form to change William's name." Yes, we have to legally get his name changed, because round about four months ago when I attempted to register him at our town hall, I was told no, sorry, you cannot name him those names which you and your husband have lovingly and effortfully searched the corners of your minds and memories for because, you see, one of them -- Atticus -- simply does not exist on the approved list of Danish names as per the Order of the Ministry of Names.

Ummmm... I see. What?

(And of course I immediately flashed back to Monty Python's Ministry of Funny Walks, not too far a leap.)

After doing the "ha, ha, you're joking...right?" laugh, I actually whipped out this line: "But, but -- I'm an American citizen! He's an American citizen! How... But...? It's a... But... from a very famous book! A classic! The character is... This can't... Uh?"

'Tis true. Here in the Land of Many Orderly Rules, you cannot name your kid whatever you want; it actually must be on the approved list of names. (I'm not joking, once again.) This is to prevent Danish residents from naming their child Badonkdonk or Frying Pan or Zqxrefff8dskil. (Because that would be disorderly.) I recall staring into the clerk's face very intently, waiting for her to tell me she was kidding, or at least to give me some advice or comprehension or even a tiny spoonful of solace. I must have made her the slightest bit uncomfortable as she hesitantly told me that I could, if I really wanted to, appeal my case to the Ministry of Names, explaining why we'd chosen this name and why it's actually not in the least bit ridiculous or offensive and perhaps William's wonderful middle name would be approved. In three to four months. Maybe. Good day.

This is an excerpt from an excellent article in the International Herald Tribune (http://www.iht.com/articles/2004/10/08/news/danes.php):

In Denmark, a country that embraces rules with the same gusto that Italy defies them, choosing a first and last name for a child is a serious, multitiered affair, governed by law and subject to the approval of the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs and the Ministry of Family and Consumer Affairs.

At its heart, the Law on Personal Names is designed to protect Denmark's innocents - the children who are undeservedly, some would say cruelly, burdened by preposterous or silly names. It is the state's view that children should not suffer ridicule and abuse because of their parents' lapses in judgment or their misguided attempts to be hip. Denmark, like much of Scandinavia, prizes sameness, not uniqueness, just as it values usefulness, not frivolousness.

"You shouldn't stand out from anyone else here; you shouldn't think you are better than anyone else," said Lan Tan, a 27-year-old Danish woman of Singaporean and Malaysian descent who is trying to win approval for her daughter's name, Frida Mei Tan-Farndsen. "It's very Scandinavian."

Greg Nagan, 39, and Trine Kammer, 32, thought it would be cute to name their new daughter Molli Malou. To their surprise, Malou was not a problem, but Molli with an i, which they had thought sounded Danish, had to be reviewed by the government.

The church told Kammer she needed to state in a letter the reason for choosing Molli. She did so, and said she told the clerk, "Here's your stupid letter: The reason for naming her Molli is because we like it."

"Isn't this silly?" Kammer said. "We love to make everything a rule here. They love to bureaucratize."

I guess this is a great example of taking intrinsic freedoms for granted. I grew up in a pretty free (sometimes too free) country, and now I live somewhere where I can't even call my child what I feel is best without running it past some harrumphy old Ministry. On the other hand, I also live in a country where virtually no one can own or carry a gun; I really like that. Give and take, I suppose. And so I'm off to our kommune (town hall) for a form to submit to get his name changed, a new birth certificate, and then we'll apply to have his passport amended. All for a hefty fee, of course.


PiNG said...

The things you learn! Let me give you a preview of the conversation that's probably going to happen in say, oh, 12 minutes or so..

Me: "Is this true?"
Ole: "Yes, of course"
Me: "Are you freakin kidding me??"

NotQuiteDanish said...

We have just sat here laughing with our morning coffees. Actually, much has been in the news about this lately in Sweden where they've just (I think) overturned that rule. I never knew it applied in DK. Maybe that's why Mary and Fred waited three months before announcing the names of their kids. Ah well, deep breaths. Something to tell him when he's older. My parents just didn't bother naming me officially. When they got my birth cert. to get me a passport, I was just called 'Unnamed Male', which made me feel very special. At least you've tried...

Bluefish said...

I am sorry to hear that. There's good and bad side of name list. Parents can't name their children with humiliating names. But when parents really have beautiful names, they are not approved by Danish government. This totally blows! I think they should give exemptions to non-Danish citizens born in Denmark.

May said...

Heh...my parents had to do the same some 35 years ago. The good news is that when you get approved, all little Danish boys can be named Atticus just like that, because you were the Atticus-pioneers.

And congratulations on that lovely baby of yours. He's adorable. I've been following your blog for some time, but didn't have an account so I could comment before now.

American in Norway said...

So funny Or not... we have the same rules/laws in Norway. Thank goodness I had/named my children in the states... where funny...we named the first one Dane,

Great blog!

Anonymous said...


Just read this post, even though it was written a few months ago.

I fear that you've run into a not quite so knowledgable "skrankepave".

I named my kid Dante (in 2005), well knowing it wasn't on the approved list. They as, asked, "is it on the list?", and I said "no, it's not, but I'm American, and it's a common name over there", and they said, "oh, alright then!". So that was pretty easy, for me at least!