Is the bearing of a child a parent's license to get creative with the name? Word On Fire contributor Ellyn von Huben examines a recent news item about a child's controversial name change, and what could be avoided if parents just give the process a little more thought, and perhaps a little more saintly intervention.
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” could have been a plea that Adrian Williams would make to both his mother and the Wisconsin State Appeals Court when he petitioned to change his name to Romanceo Sir Tasty Maxibillion back in 1995. The State of Wisconsin didn’t buy it; though it actually could have made him easier to find as a parolee (did I mention he was incarcerated at the time?). His mother’s response? Maternal intuition leads me to think that she would also take umbrage at the choice. “Sir Tasty,” as I like to call him, asked the court to allow him a name that is unique, creative, and the embodiment of his aspirations. In this respect, the criminal’s mind was working with thought processes not unlike many soon-to-be parents preparing for a new arrival.
Talk of the trend of modern creative naming has come into prominence once more in the news in the past few weeks. A judge in Tennessee disallowed the name Messiah for a young child. What received a lot of attention was judicial over-involvement and the judge’s decision to order that Messiah not be the child’s legal name. Judge Lu Ann Ballew became involved because this was a case of parental indecision on what should be the baby’s surname. I saw little outrage over the tragedy of the child’s unmarried parents haggling over choice of surname — a sorry intimation of discord to come in his young life. In the course of this decision the judge decided that Messiah was not an appropriate first name. Many people have been shocked and irate with the judge’s pronouncement that Messiah is an offensive name, in that it only belongs to Jesus Christ, thus raising this essentially to another debate about Church/State separation. (To add to the Judge Ballew’s opinion, I would interject that “Messiah” might also be a name that is offensive to Jews who believe the Messiah is still to come.)
I was more shocked to read that “Messiah” is fourth among the fastest trending names in popularity according to the U. S. Social Security Administration. There were close to 800 little Messiahs born in the United States in 2012. So, while one child has been spared an unusual and inappropriate name, this well-publicized case has made no contribution to pushing back the trend of unfortunate names. American freedom allows parents to pull out all the stops when giving one of their first and most permanent gifts to their children. Many parents feel no constraints when deciding baby names. Even our constitution’s “Title of Nobility clause” has not interfered with the Princes, Barons, and Queenies that have populated hospital nurseries...