In the late 1960s, Johnny Cash sang the cautionary tale of a boy named Sue, who overcame years of belittling to finally confront his father over his gender-bending name. One would think that we’ve learnt a little since then, with deeply meaningful titles proudly displayed to all and sundry. Ahem, well. Maybe.

So, from Metallica to Armani, Lego or Chevrolet, there seems to be a unique moniker that suits every newborn child in 2009. Yes, this is a time of celebrities who are famous for nothing other than being famous – reflected by the dramatic spike in the number of newborn Americans named Paris earlier this decade. But surely, for every Moon Unit or Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily, there must be some kind of applicable law somewhere that prevents such obscurities?

Breathe a sigh of relief then, as Finland steps up to provide us with suitable legislated restrictions. If you want your child added to the national census here, there’s a committee employed specifically to decide whether the name is acceptable. Furthermore, if you want your child baptised, your local minister has to approve of your choice of name. Thus, the most popular names here in Finland are relatively inoffensive fare such as Maria, Emilia, Juhani and Johannes.

Spare a thought for parents in China, a country with 1.3 billion people sharing a mere 129 surnames. Seeking some individuality for their children, Chinese parents are turning to the use of unconventional letters, numbers and symbols such as 1A and the @ symbol, when forming their children’s names.

Meanwhile, in the land of the free, America can boast Post Office, Garage Empty, Emma Royd and Nice Carr on its population register. Amongst all of this creativity, one begins to wonder: How will this affect the child in question? Well, we should remember, whatever keeps them happy. Unless, of course, you decide to name your child Happy.

James O’Sullivan
Kristin Ay