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Naming Law (wikipedia.org)
28 points by tosh 11 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 43 comments

I am surprised by the strict naming laws in some Northern European countries.

> Parents are limited to choosing children's names from the Personal Names Register, which is a list of about 1800 names for each gender.[18] The Icelandic Naming Committee maintains the list and hears requests for exceptions.

> At present, the Names Act of 1985 requires that all Finnish citizens and residents have at least one and at the most four first names. Persons who do not have a first name are obligated to adopt one when they are entered into the Finnish national population database. Parents of new-born children must name their child and inform the population registry within two months of the child's birth. The name may be chosen freely, but it must not be

> Under the Law on Personal Names,[6] first names are picked from a list of approved names (18,000 female names and 15,000 male names as of 1 January 2016).[7] One can also apply to Ankestyrelsen for approval of new names, e.g. common first names from other countries. Names cannot have surname character, and must follow Danish orthography (e.g. Cammmilla with three m's is not allowed).[8]

Iceland, being a tiny island nation with only some 300k speakers of Icelandic, goes to rather extreme lengths to "preserve" the language from foreign influences, including names.



I don't think it's difficult to get a name approved in Denmark, thus extending the list of approved names, if it's a "real" name for example from another language/country. Made up names are probably not getting approved.

My sister's name, while a perfect valid name in Denmark, has a foreign spelling so it had to be approved.

In 1987 a boy was named Christophpher which is not a legal name. The mother was fined and fought in court until 1995 where she lost and was threatened with even heavier fines. The minister intervened and the boy was allowed to keep his name. However, the name was not added to the list of legal names.


Finnish doesn't sound strict at all.

> One naming law that some found restrictive was California's ban on diacritical marks, such as in the name José. For over 30 years, the Office of Vital Records in the California Department of Public Health required that names contain only the 26 alphabetical characters of the English language. The law, however, was amended in 2017 to require the usage of diacritical marks to be properly recorded by the State Registrar

This was because the software couldn't handle it, but what software engineer wrote software to handle names in California that couldn't handle Spanish names of all things!?

The software engineer who wrote the code back in the 70's and only had ASCII available.

It's funny in the Chinese article the authorities rejected the name "赵C" because they said their system can't handle latin characters (but can handle complex encoding of Chinese characters)

Not even ASCII, but likely a 6-bit encoding (think Base64), since names are not case-sensitive and storage was far more expensive.

Since names are often assumed to be not case-sensitive.

Although every once in a while you still see a system that renders names in all uppercase, with the lone exception of a lowercase c in Scottish surnames starting with Mc-.

Or a 12-row encoding¹, if California kept records in the BC era (before computers).

¹ https://www.computerhistory.org/revolution/punched-cards/2/8...

Lookup ASCII 130

ASCII is a 7-bit character set, though there are a number of different 8-bit extensions of ASCII that are sometimes incorrectly called ASCII.

I'm sorry, my computer is not 8-bit clean

Everything over 127 is part of Extended ASCII which, as far as I can tell, was introduced by IBM in '81.

There were certainly other proprietary 8-bit extensions of ASCII before IBM's.

I have seen software in Canada that cannot handle accented characters. This is in a country where a quarter of the population is French. Case in point:

> Sudbury (Ontario, Canada) woman supports petition to add accents to French names on government I.D.


Many “falsehoods programmers believe about names[1]” are pure implicit bias. Software written before Unicode was an assumed default to handle names in California by a bunch of privileged white guys who don’t know any Latinos is almost guaranteed to be wrong, unless the software authors are particularly focused on inclusion for reasons other than personal or vicarious experience.

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18567548

Or alternatively, memory and storage was hideously expensive and the programmers were limited to what they could support.

and their biased support was for anglo names?

I don't think allowing non-english characters in legal names is a rabbit hole Americans should be ok with opening.

Does that include spaces and dashes? No "Billy Bob" or "Sue-Ellen" ?

Plenty of people already have these names ( Beyoncé to pick somebody famous, born in Texas ). What is your reasoning why they shouldn't be allowed anymore?


To the extent than names are part of official government records, the government needs to set some limits for what it's systems can handle.

I think emojis and cyrillic alphabet characters should be kept out, for example.

I have seen increasing number of people using emojis as a word or username replacement. Given how well it works in many context, I disagree with excluding emojis.

That we should have a simple standard so that names serve their purpose: everyone should be able to read them, distinct names should not be confused for each other, and the same name should always be written identically. Yes, I'd support banning spaces and dashes - speaking as someone who's obliged to use a mispronunciation of my own name because that was what was reported to the authorities when I first moved here.

So only one version of "Joe" and "Jo" or "Matthew" and "Mathew" ?

I think this will happen right after the US adopts Metric Time.

Lots of nice countries to live in do that.

The Jons and Johns of the world will never let your vision come to be.

Why? We don't have a national language, why should names be limited to english characters?

Of course we have a national language, but it's de facto rather than de jure.

The lack of an official language should not be confused with the lack of a national language. There is definitely a (deeply entrenched) national language.

Let's assume that's true.

English characters include vowels with a diaeresis, as Chloë and Zoë for first names, and Brontë for a last name. The New Yorker and a small number of other publications continue to use the diaeresis for words like coördinate. English also uses non-ASCII characters in a number of loan words, like née and açaí.

A quick check of the members of the US House, I see Raúl Grijalva of AZ, Tony Cárdenas, Linda Sánchez, and Nanette Barragán of CA, Jesús "Chuy" García of IL, Ben Ray Luján of NM, Nydia Velázquez and José E. Serrano of NY, and Jenniffer González of PR.

9/438 members is about 1%.

A check of geographical names shows places in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, New Mexico, and elsewhere with non-ASCII characters in them.

That strongly suggests that "(deeply entrenched) national language" of the US does not restrict itself to ASCII letters when it comes to naming, but - like loan words - includes words and orthography from other languages.

Hafþór is a perfectly fine name!

speaking of icelandic naming rules being pretty draconian..

Yes, most people on this forum would find that their name is not on the icelandic list (But if lucky, there might be a similar one).

One reason is that they want names to have endings that work well with icelandic grammar (forming genitives and other cases).



I imagine trying to purge voter roles when someone moves form one state to another. But the different states allow different characters. In Florida we start allowing emoji.

That article is seriously lacking in content. I know from personal experiance that some of those countries have much more complex rules. Others have rarely-used forbidden name lists (ie Quebec, canada) ussually couched in vital records or child protection rules. Try naming your kid "I Was Drunk" and you will quickly learn that wikipedia and google are not authoritative.

The BC law (also canada) creates several open-ended restrictions:


"Registration of names 9 (1)Despite sections 4, 6 and 7, if the registrar general considers that a name that a person applying for registration of a birth or an amendment to a registration of birth seeks to give to a child

(a)might reasonably be expected to cause

(i)mistake or confusion, or

(ii)embarrassment to the child or another person,

(b)is sought for an improper purpose, or

(c)is, on any other ground, objectionable,

The registrar general must

(d)register the birth without the name applied for or refuse to amend the existing name on a birth registration, as the case may be..."

If only there was a way to fix the article somehow!

ya, good luck. Unless you joined up 10+ years ago it is very hard to edit wikipedia. I have tried several times to contribute and have always faced unkind resistance. Any contribution from a newish account is a red flag to the bulls that run things there.

I thought, "I rarely have issues with my edits." Then I thought, "wait, how long have I had a wikipedia account?" 15 years. That's surprising to me.

Sometimes the keyboard is all that is needed to put a stop to non-ascii names. I remember when I was traveling through Ecuador with a friend of mine named Jörg. We ended up renaming him to Jorge whenever we had to buy a bus ticket :-)

How Jörg is really spelled in a passport? Because names in passports are restricted to ASCII as far as I remember. And to get to Ecuador one has to fly (I guess?), and airplane ticketing systems are the worst when it comes to names.

I'm gonna assume said Jörg is German. Quoting from Wikipedia

> German names containing umlauts (ä, ö, ü) and/or ß are spelled in the correct way in the non-machine-readable zone of the passport, but with AE, OE, UE, and/or SS in the machine-readable zone

In my EU driver's license the umlauts are spelled in the correct way, these aren't in my name, though.


The machine-readable zone has strict limitations (worse than ASCII, in fact), but the human-readable parts can contain anything including non-Latin scripts.


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