Of Names and Identities

 

This morning’s  newspaper brought the interesting news that

“a 15-year-old Icelandic girl is suing the state for the right to legally use the name given to her by her mother.

Apparently, Iceland has specific rules regarding what names can be given to a baby. There are 1,853 female names and 1712 male names that parents can choose from.

The girl in this case was named ‘Blaer’ by her mother. Blaer means “light breeze” in Icelandic. At the time her mother had no idea that this name was not on the list approved by the government, neither did the priest who baptised her. They found this out only later.

Blaer is identified as “Stulka” – or “girl” – on all her official documents which has led to years of frustration as she has had to explain the whole story at the bank, renewing her passport and dealing with the country’s bureaucracy.

Here’s hoping that Blaer wins her case and gets the right to keep her given name

.

One might not agree that governments should have the right to place restrictions on what parents can name their children. However after reading this article yesterday, I have to admit that some parents do come up with some pretty outlandish names.

The article mentions some unusual and in some case even inappropriate names given by parents to their children. In many cases parents got their inspiration from technology.

 There’s kids in Egypt called Twitter and Facebook. In the US other tech inspired names include Google and less glamorously, Excel.

Five families decided to call their new daughters Moo. Five boys were called Burger. Other names include Notorious, Marvelous, Brilliant, Famous, Beautiful, and Cyncere.

.

I remember reading a disheartening news report a couple of years ago about girls named “Nakoshi”.

In Satara distrgirl skippingict in Maharashtra, India, district health officials noticed that many girls were named ‘Nakoshi’, which means “unwanted”. A survey was undertaken which showed that this was a widespread practice- 265 girls named Nakoshi were found in this one district.

Owing to a “tradition” that reflects gender bias, several parents in the region have named their third or fourth daughter Nakoshi, in the hope that the next child will be a boy.

Last year a renaming public ceremony was organised and all the 265 girls got rid of the humiliating name of “Nakoshi”, and received new names.

Of course, changing the mindset of people is a much more difficult task than merely changing a name. But, as Satara District Health Officer Dr. Bhagwan Pawar said-

“It might not change the sex ratio of the district drastically, and the mindsets of people will take years to change, but this is one way of telling our girls that we need them, and they are indispensable in our lives.”

Let us hope that changing the names of these young girls will encourage a change in the attitudes of their families too.

Shakespeare said that ‘a Rose by any other name would smell as sweet’. That may be true. However, I think that the flower in question would rather be named ‘Rose’ and not ‘Thorn’!

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20 thoughts on “Of Names and Identities”

  1. yes you are right , I would prefer rose to be called a rose rather than thorn.. but then now we know what thorn means .. whosoever found the language and gave the flower the name rose .. had they called it thorn we would have loved thorn tooo 🙂

    having said that I think a name is important its the first impression a person has of you by seeing your name .. Mine is a big long one , no wonder they hesitate 🙂

    but name a child UNWANTED is so sad and good the govt has changed the names , it shud be banned All children are equal

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    1. Yes, your name is a long one- but a pleasant one, I think. 🙂

      As you say, naming a child ‘unwanted’ is so very sad. Says a lot about our society. I think that attitudes are changing now, but far too slowly. 😦

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    1. Sorry, Chowlaji, didn’t quite get what you want to say. Are you referring to something else- other than what I’ve written here? The Delhi rape-murder case which is currently in the news?

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  2. Yes, names are important socially to state who we are but also for the vibrations they bring. The fight for the surname amongst married women, the fight to keep your first name for some Maharashtrian women–all this telling us what names mean to us. I remember African American writer bell hooks chose her name so that grandmothers from both sides would be represented in her name and she kept it lower case so that she could remember the slave lineage that her family came from…

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    1. Yes, names are important, particularly for women. As you have mentioned, it is the custom in Maharashtra for a woman’s in-laws to change her name at the time of her marriage. Most of my friends’ names were changed even if they did not want to do so. I had told my husband before we were married that I wanted to keep my own name so mine was not.

      Interesting story about how writer bell hooks chose her name. A bit sad too.

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  3. What? Even a name for their baby is selected by the Govt.? Weird people!

    I like what Dr.Bhagwan has said. At least some people believe that girls are important.

    Like the name nakoshi, here in Tamil nadu, people name the child who is born after some abortions as ‘kuppan’ and ‘kuppamma’…kuppai means waste! Then the baby will be alive for a long time they say!

    I like the Shakespeare lines!

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    1. We have some strange customes in India, don’t we? I had not heard about this custom of naming a child born after some miscarriages as ‘waste’. But at least the parents give the baby this name because they want him/her to live for a long time. Not because they do not want the child…..

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    1. What wonderful news, Radha! Congratulations to you and to the parents of the litle princess too!
      Is this why you have not been posting lately? Expecting a post about your granddaughter soon. 🙂

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  4. I have read about the custom in Iceland too, wherein the names chosen by the government is official. The name Nakoshi sounds too cruel. I know of Tambrahm families where the last child is given the name of ‘Mangala’ or ‘Mangalam’, especially if there are too many children already. I wonder if they didn’t realise that family planning was an option 🙂

    It is really heartening to know about how these girls got a new name due to the efforts of the DHO. Great initiative. We do have good people in our society who use their official powers to make a change.

    As for weird names, well, I am pretty unhappy about mine too, which made me change my virtual one and do a full length post on it too 😀

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    1. Zephyr, did you notice the coincidence that the name of the girl from Iceland is ‘Blaer’ which means ‘light breeze’, same meaning that your [online] name has? 🙂

      Yes, I remember reading that post of yours! 😀

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  5. what a coincidence, only yesterday I read an article in TOI about the ridiculous names parents give to their children, and how children feel embarrassed when they grow up..

    I always believe that name affects the personality, and since i always gave more importance to intelligence and education than looks, I named my daughter accordingly:).

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  6. How can parents be so cruel as to name their child “unwanted”. They must be scarred for life! I hope such cruel gestures of hatred towards the girl child will eventually vanish from our country. I have always thought that rape and such acts are just an extension to such mentalities. We just dont value our girls. In fact most of them dont even get educated to be worthy of themselves.In our country if the parents hate them from their birth and treat them as burden, the nation does nothing to improve the situation. There needs a radical change if things are to improve.

    As for Iceland, it seems to be a strange law..

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  7. What strange traditions and customs! Parents should be careful while naming their children – the name should not bring shame upon the child. Some just want their child to have a unique name. That’s ok, but that should not be an awkward one. And gov deciding the names – incredible!

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    1. Yes, I think parents who give their child anodd name just want him/her to have a unique name. But they should also think about whether a certain name will be an embarrassment for the child! 🙂

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