Wednesday, July 16, 2008

By Any Other Name. . .

I've written before about the ups and downs of being a girl named "Michael". I still get the occasional double-take or "Is it 'Michelle'?"-- and just last week the lady renewing our Sam's Club membership was momentarily confused-- but I can't think of myself by any other name. If I had been born in Sweden, the Swedish tax authorities might not have allowed it. (I'd have been "Nicole" or "Holly" or something, then. I think those were two of the alternates. . .)

According to this article on The Local, a Swedish couple won't be allowed to name their daughter "Elvis" because "it is the National Tax Board's view that Elvis is a first name of a masculine type and as such may, in light of standard practice, be considered clearly inappropriate as a first name for a woman".

Now, I wouldn't really want to name a son "Elvis", either, because, well, it feels too "taken". Kind of like naming your daughter "Madonna", though that would be about 1000 times worse, considering what Madonna stands for, IMNSHO. ;o) But their argument seemed to be more that it was a masculine name-- not that the name is strongly associated with a cultural icon.

(Incidentally, is it just me, or is it amusing that the same people who are making judgments about the "appropriateness" of a child's name based solely on his/or gender would probably never let it be said that they make judgments about whether or not someone behaves according to their gender or "identifies" with that gender, etc.? I just find that very interesting. They wouldn't want little Suzy to think that she had to live a "traditionally feminine" life. No, she should be encouraged to do everything the boys do-- from playing with toy trucks to majoring in engineering. And if she should someday decide that she's not really a girl at all, I'm sure they'd think that was ok, too. But in the meantime, it's vitally important that she have a "first name of the feminine type"!)

I'm sure this system of having the government "approve" names was originally kindly meant. I guess it's supposed to protect kids from the weirdest names their eccentric (or merely thoughtless) parents might come up with. Still, it just doesn't sit right with me. I wouldn't appreciate my government telling me that I can't name my child as I see fit. (If s/he hates the name that much, they can go by a nickname or even have it legally changed!) I suspect that the majority of Swedes are fully capable of picking good names for their children without the Tax Board's seal of approval. (Seriously, Sweden, what is it with you and the tax man? (g))

Besides, evidently they still let some kooky names slip through. (There are two Swedish girls named "Mettalica" and "Metallica".)

ETA: I just found another blogger's compilation of a few odd names approved in Sweden, as well as a brief background on the whole process of having names approved.