Last week a family court judge in New Zealand ordered that a nine-year-old girl, Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii, be renamed. What could possibly justify such a drastic measure? Judge Rob Murffit stated that the court was “profoundly concerned about the very poor judgment which this child’s parents have shown in choosing this name.” Further, he commented, the name “makes a fool of the child and sets her up with a social disability and handicap, unnecessarily.”

Apparently, Talula was so embarrassed by her name that she never told even her closest friends her true name, instead requesting that they simply call her “K.”

New Zealand law prohibits individuals having names that would cause offense to to a reasonable person. Other names that the New Zealand Registrar General of Births, Deaths, and Marriages has blocked include “Yeah Detroit” and “Fish and Chips.”

While there are no regulations as to what parents may name their children in the United States, the New Zealand case begs the question: should there be? As one commenter observed, “We do not simply name children to ensure they come when they’re called. We name children to give them an identity.” In fact, many cultures have elaborate traditions surrounding the choosing of a child’s name. Unfortunately, statistics show that American parents take their cues from names in current popular culture. Kingston, Shiloh, Miley, and Jayden all made appearances in the Social Security list of most popular baby names for 2007 due in large part to their celebrity connections.

I do not write to attack the intrinsic value of free speech or parental rights, but rather to question whether children saddled with ridiculous names should really have to endure additional childhood teasing or the burdens associated with having one’s name legally changed. Aren’t playground politics hard enough as it is?

- Brooke Russ

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2 Responses to A Rose by Any Other Name?

  1. Ku'uipo says:

    I think this crosses the boundary into freedom of speech. What was wrong with Talula? It’s not like she had to tell everyone the rest of the name. I had a difficult name and kids only made fun of it when they were angry at me. And how did this article go from talking about a child in New Zealand to bashing American culture? Quite a leap there.