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Remember, a name is for life

2006-05-12 10:26

  In Sao Paulo, a baby boy is chortling away, unaware that a court is deciding his fate. If it finds in his father's favour, he is in all kinds of trouble. There may be a law in Brazil against giving your child a name that might cause him to be mocked, but daddy wants to call his son Osama bin Laden. The same father, Osvaldo Oliveira Soares, has form for trying to use babies as political statements. Nine years ago, he was banned from naming a previous son Saddam Hussein.

  Unlike Brazil, there is no law in Britain that restricts a parent's right to name their child. "It's not for the registrar to say if someone has picked a name they don't think is suitable," says Alison Cathcart, superintendent registrar at Westminster register office. "But if someone is from a different culture and wants to register a name that sounds like a swear word in English then we do advise them of that."

  "Naming does matter," says Helen Petrie, a professor at the City University of London and a researchersintosthe psychology of naming. "We have stereotypes of what sort of people are behind certain names. There are studies of teachers in primary schools in the US that show they rate children with certain names as less able.

  "The name is the first thing we find out when we meet someone. If you call your child an unusual fluffy name like Fifi Trixibelle, as did Bob Geldof and Paula Yates, it can make life hard for you - especially if you want to be prime ministerial and are not in the least bit fluffy-headed."

  There's also the class factor. "Fifty years ago there was no cross-over of names between classes. Now everyone can buy Tatler and see the name Tarquin," says Petrie. "Until the 60s, Tracey was a posh Chelsea name. Now it has a terrible stereotype. I've interviewed some Traceys who find their name a huge burden. However high up they may be in their profession, people hear their name and think they're the cleaner."

  But no name is entirely safe. Your parents may not mean to mess you up but they can't know what the next mass murderer will be called. They can't necessarily protect you from other children who have a gift for making fun of any name. Sophies will tell you they were called Sofa in school; Theodores get nicknamed Odour. But, if your surname is Graves or Banks, you might reasonably expect your parents to have noticed that Robin had problems.

  宁愿生坏命 不要改错名

  据英国《卫报》报道,在巴西圣保罗,法庭正决定一名男婴的命运。如果他的父亲胜诉,这名男婴将在未来岁月里麻烦不断。因为他的父亲为他取名本·拉登。巴西有法律规定,父母不可为新生儿取日后引致他/她被嘲笑之名。同是这位父亲,9年前曾为他的另一名儿子取名萨达姆·侯赛因,被法庭颁令禁止。

  英国并无法律对取名作出规限。但伦敦威斯敏斯特区户籍办公室主任卡芙卡特说,“如果有来自不同文化背景的父母,为他们的孩子取英语脏话为名,我们还是会劝止的。”

  “命名确是一件不容轻率的事,”伦敦城市大学研究命名心理学的教授海伦·佩翠说。她说人是会受名字影响的,尤其是女孩子。在英国社会,人们讲究等级地位。“翠丝”在60年代还是切尔西区一个上等的名字,可现在,人们会假定“翠丝”是清洁女工。如果你想入主内阁,就更得小心,不要取一个花悄的名字。

  取名确实是一门大学问,将为人父母者应三思而后行。但亦无名字是百分百“安全”的,因为想象力丰富的孩子们总是可以为同伴取各式花名。

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