Naming Names

A New Zealand court has recently forced a name change on a girl named Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii. Several other strange names are mentioned that were refused by the Registrar, including Fish and Chips, Yeah Detroit, Keenan Got Lucy and Sex Fruit.

Apparently New Zealand prevents names “that would cause offense to a reasonable person”,  and imposes a limit of 100 characters.

Curious as to the position in the UK I sent off a request to the General Register Office, and also to the Registrar General in Scotland (as they have an entirely different legal system).

The Scottish registrar came back exceptionally quickly informing me that there is no legislation in Scotland restricting the name that can be given to a child. However, he then went on to say that Scottish parents “have the freedom to name their children as they wish, provided it is not objectionable.”

To me this contradicts his previous statement as such a restriction must be based on some law, even if it’s a generic one related to causing offence more generally, rather than specific to naming. So I’ve gone back to ask for more details on who makes this decision, and how.

I was a little surprised to be told that names don’t have to be in the Latin script (I’d explicitly asked about any restrictions on characters), so I’ve given the example of a child being named something offensive in Chinese. Normally public order offences are based on a reasonableness test (the classic “Man on the Clapham omnibus”), so is it allowable if the average person wouldn’t know that the name was offensive?

More to come as the responses arrive…

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