I didn’t realise until recently that in Italy there are rules, no, actual laws about what you can name your child. Some names are even banned. A recent report in La Repubblica told of the case of a 7 month old baby who has yet to be named. Her parents want to call her Lior which according to Italian law they can be prevented from doing because it doesn’t distinguish the gender of the child. As from 2000, embarrassing, ridiculous or indistinguishable names can be contested by il Procuratore della Repubblica. The registrar can advise and try to dissuade parents from their unusual choice. However, if insistent they can be taken to court to resolve the issue legally.
I’m usually quite in favour of Italian rules – no cappucino after 11am, or no sandal wearing until June. But this one does seem overly conservative and intrusive. All to avoid the horror of little Italian babies being given American soap star names. Stick to tradition, stick to what you know is the order. The right to name your child surely is fairly fundamental and one that despite being childless, I’ve always enjoyed debating.
I love discussing baby names. I love the books. I love the lists every year outlining the top ten most common names. I love the judgements. “The Collins Gem Baby Name book genuinely points out under the entry for Adolf/Adolph that ‘Adolph has never been a common name in this country and received a further setback with the rise of Adolph Hitler. Setback? I’ll say.”
And then I think that maybe the Italians just might be right. Are too many people making bad choices? Would they be happy to carry such a name as they’ve burdened their child with? My last class in England consisted of 30+ children, of which only 2 children had names of classmates of mine in the entire 12 years I went to school (Daniel and James). The rest were a mixture of the new, the unusual, the famous, the daft. Maybe not embarrassing, but as the great Alan Bennett says, cheaper, fluorescent names neither substantial nor solid.
So I have my sympathies with the Italian law, but what fun would we lose, both in the choosing and the judging, if our choices were so restricted?
Vito does have a certain ring to it doesn’t it?