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.