Site quotemaster and resident pedant Tom Fuller comes through with a rare comment of his containing no quotations whatsoever! (Tom is, among other things, a contributor and researcher for The Yale Book of Quotations.) He adds some useful perspective on the issue of naming children, in his Comment of the Day to yesterday’s post, “Naming Your Kid After Hitler: 100% Legal, 100% Child Abuse.” I must point out that “Choo Choo” was not the 1962 Mets catcher’s real name, any more than Red Sox pitcher Dennis Boyd was really named “Oil Can.”
Here it is Tom’s comment:
“This is a good illustration of how America’s concept of free speech is such an unusual legal and cultural norm. In many countries, including Germany, a child’s name must be legally approved in advance (in Germany, by the Standesamt — office of vital statistics).
“By German law, a child’s name has to meet two conditions: (1) it must reflect the sex of the child, and (2) it must not endanger the ‘well-being of the child.’ No “Moon Unit” Zappa, no “Choo Choo” Coleman, and — especially — no “Adolf” anybody, unless the local office says “OK”.
“According to wire service reports, hundreds of Algerians wanted to name their babies “Scud” during the 1991 Iraq war, but the local officials nixed the idea.
“My point? Only that Americans are often more likely than those in other countries to regulate speech and behavior in ways other than by prior legal restraint — like ethics, which is what this odd corner of the Web is all about. Sadly, as history has shown, when ethics fails, many people turn to the law to fix things. It doesn’t always work.”