… is what we’re thinking of calling our first child, partly because we like Monty Python and partly to take the mickey out of Denmark, Sweden and Iceland, all of which have laws governing what you can name a child. Obviously not if we have a boy. That’d be silly. We’d call him Tarquin.*
I bring this up not to inform you that there is now a little Exile – there isn’t, so no need to go asking if he’s blogged his first swear word yet – but because the news of the birth of Harper Seven Beckham, poor bloody thing, has prompted me to consider my feelings about naming laws. On the one hand it completely goes against libertarian ideals (well, mine anyway) for the state to interfere with what parents decide to call their children and it’s rather telling that in the Swedish example it’s as much to make life easier for the tax authorities as it is to avoid children being stigmatised because even if Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 is pronounced ‘Albin’ it won’t fit on the name tag by their coat peg and anyway the teacher can’t spell it. Look, she’s forgotten the double X again. Both of them in fact.
On the other hand, Harper Seven Beckham for heaven’s sake… and some of the other more deranged sleb kid names. I mean, Harper is unusual enough and of course was also the name of the author of a very famous book (christened Nelle as it turns out), but Seven? If you’re trying to give your baby a distinctive name I’d advise against sticking the kid with a handle that makes them sound like a Borg (actually christened Annika as any Trekkie will tell you if you don’t distract them in time by pointing and yelling ‘Look over there, it’s Patrick Stewart’ before running away). Seven could so easily cause confusion with Seven Sirius, who’s the son of André 3000 (christened André Benjamin), and Harper Seven sounds as much like an air force call-sign as a name. You could start to make a joke about the Blue Angels display team there, but before you do you’d best know that Blue Angel is in fact the third daughter of U2 git-arist The Edge (who was born David Evans). Max Lirons and Tiger Lilys and Bear Blu-s, oh my!* All a bit silly? I should Coco, except of course that we shouldn’t because that’s Courteney Cox’s daughter.
But then I think about name laws and wonder if they don’t make things worse. Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116, the kid who briefly had perhaps the most unreal name ever, would probably have been just another Sven or Björn or Thor if his parents hadn’t found the concept of having to choose from a list of government approved names even sillier and more offensive than throwing the cat at the keyboard and deciding that whatever comes out would be pronounced ‘Albin’, simply as a form of protest. I wouldn’t use my child as a protest that way, but you can kind of understand their point since after the government told them they weren’t allowed to call him they changed it to ‘A’, also pronounced ‘Albin’, only to be told that wasn’t allowed either. 5000 kronor, which was their fine incidentally, not David and Victoria’s first choice for Harper Seven. Let’s not forget that rather creepy tax man aspect either. Far easier to respect the Beckhams’ choice than a government’s interest in it.
The thing is that kids often go through phases of disliking their given name even if it’s quite an ordinary one, and as for the more unusual ones, well, if they really don’t like it eventually they’ll be old enough to say so and insist on a change. Take film director Duncan Jones, for example, though you may know of him as Zowie Bowie, born to David Bowie shortly before the Ziggy Stardust phase. By the time he was of secondary school age he was asking to be called Joey or Joe, and it strikes me that any other kid could do much the same and simply refuse to answer to anything else until, like Duncan Jones, they’re a legal adult and really do get the choice of what name to go by. Moon Unit Zappa, on the other hand, seems happy enough to be known as Moon Zappa and probably only includes her middle name on official documents like her driving licence. Each born with highly unusual names which would almost certainly be forbidden in countries with naming laws, and each has chosen for themselves how to be known in their adult lives. No matter what we think – and generally I don’t – of celebrities and their bizarre name choices, isn’t letting the kids and their families work things out for themselves better than some civil servant giving new parents disapproving glances across his desk as he scans the list of approved names to see if their preference is on it?
And if one day there is a Tarquin Exile it’d very obviously be short for Tarquin-Fim-Tim-Lim-Bim-Bus-Stop-F’tang-F’tang-Olé-Biscuit-Barrel, and Python fans wouldn’t need to be told why. But we wouldn’t mind at all if he just wanted to go by ‘Tim’.
* Who are Christina Aguilera’s son, Roger Taylor’s daughter and Alicia Silverstone’s son respectively, and in case you’re wondering it took me under ten minutes internettery to find three celebs’ children that sound like a famous line from The Wizard of Oz.