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January 3, 2013

Did you know it's illegal to name a baby 'Elvis' in Sweeden, 'Fish and Chips' in New Zealand, or '@' in China?

There are some things even doesn't know. (Shocking!) Among those things is the fact that some nations have restrictive baby-naming laws.

Black Americans, in particular, should be grateful that we live in nation that has no 'approved' baby-name list.

There is a law in Iceland, for example, that tells parents what names they may -- and may not by default -- attach to their children.

One of those pictured above is Blaer
The other is her mom.
I'll let you guess which is which.
So, when Bjork Eidsdottir decided to name her daughter 'Blaer,' the Icelandic government refused to acknowledge it. 'Blaer' was not on the official list of names for girls. Consequently, Blaer is called 'girl' by the government

Icelanders have a law that protects their heritage. It's called the Personal Names Register. It is a list of 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names that fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules. The list also protects children from embarrassment.

Blaer, who is now 15 years old, has grown weary of being called 'girl' by her government and has filed a lawsuit to force a change.

Blaer's mom pleads ignorance.

She believed 'Blaer,' which is an Icelandic word meaning 'gentle breeze,' was on the infamous list. Mom cites another Blaer whose name was approved and notes that the name being used in a popular Icelandic novel.

The name commission, however, points to grammar and the fact that the word requires a masculine article.

Such laws may seem silly in America, particularly in the black community where mom's commonly concoct baby names based on phonetic appeal rather than tradition.

Here's something else didn't know: Other nations have restrictive baby name laws.

In Germany, for example, a baby can't be assigned its last name as its first name. There are no Schultz Schultz in Deutschland. Germans are also forbidden to name their newborns after objects. Rock Schultz would not pass scrutiny, or Stein Schultz. Stein Stein would be a double reject.

Sweden's law, originally designed in the days of yore to protect the integrity of nobility, forbids giving a baby a name that could cause discomfort. Among names on the reject list is 'Elvis.' Gasp.

Japan allows only two names per baby: a given name and a surname. Inappropriate names are also not allowed. There are, therefore, no children in Japan named Akuma (Devil).

Denmark has a list of about 7,000 approved names. The objective is to prevent parents from giving their kids weird names. The list is reviewed and changed each year.

New Zealand's restrictive naming law blocked one set of parents from naming their newborn 'Fish and Chips'.

China requires names to be tech friendly. Names must be chosen from a list of 17,000 characters that can be recognized by computers. Nonetheless, the parents who chose @ for their baby were forced to reconsider. @ in China is pronounced “ai-ta” and is similar to the phrase meaning "love him."

Norway's restrictive name laws were changed in 2002.

In America, parents who named their son Adolph Hitler were punished by losing custody of all their children. To my knowledge that is the only instance in American history when punitive recourse was taken for a name deemed inappropriate.

You may recall this headline from a year ago: "Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop, 30, Arrested By Madison, Wisc. Police."

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