Friday, January 4, 2013

What's in a Name?

What's in a name? Well, as we all well know, actually quite a lot. Still, I never expected to read a story like this one which a friend pointed out to me yesterday about an Icelandic girl who can't legally use her given name because it is not on the government's approved list of names! (To read the full story, go to:

Let me stipulate up front that I am not totally unsympathetic to efforts to protect children from the capriciously ridiculous names that their narcissistic parents might choose to inflict upon them. In the good old days, in the Church we were fairly strict about insisting on a saint's name when a baby was brought for baptism. Contemporary laxity in regard to saints' names not only means that children may go through life without proper patrons and role models but it also contributes to the secular tendency to choose vanity names. But, by any standard, the Icelandic situation  (at least as described in that AP article) seems beyond ridiculous. It is, I suppose, a libertarian's nightmare. Or, rather, it can be construed as a gift of sorts, since its sheer ridiculousness reinforces libertarianism's hostility to human community and its constraints.

Iceland (like its mother country, Denmark, and Germany, according to the article) has official rules about what a baby can be named. The  state's "Personal Names Register" is a list of 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names that fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules and that officials maintain will protect children from embarrassment. In this particular case, the issue is not potential embarassment but grammar. The name in question requires a masculine article, and has therefore been deemed unacceptable as a girl's name - this despite the fact that it was used as a name for a female character in a novel by Iceland's revered Nobel Prize-winning author Halldor Laxness!

Personally, I'm a big believer in strong, effective government that marhsalls the resources of society to meet the community's needs - a Hamiltonian model, if you will. But one can have strong, effective government without the kind of creeping totalitarianism the modern liberal, "nanny state" seems determined at times to inflict upon society.
By coincidence, I read this article on the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, a feast finally and formally restored to the Roman calendar after a regrettable absense of several decades (although, oddly, none the three orations of the Mass mentions the actual name of Jesus!). regarding the importance of that name, Peter proclaimed: There is no salvation throuogh anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved (Acts 4:12).

So names certainly are important!

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