Fascinated by comments in Peter, Paul, and Mary from people who have lived in or who currently live in France and Spain, saying that those countries’ governments maintain active lists of allowable names for babies. Naturally, these lists are Biblically derived. The thought of a similar tradition continuing on in the U.S. is almost impossible to imagine, and it amazes me that Europeans are sufficiently complicit with the tradition to not be rioting in the streets over such a fascistic and unfree practice. How can such a personal choice be considered government business in 2003?
Until very recently in Spain you could only use a name from the Catholic church’s list of saints, seriously. That’s why there are so many people called Jesus, Pablo, Francisco, or Maria, Magdalena, Asuncion, Inmaculada… oh and if you want Spanish citizenship you have to have your name translated into Spanish. Philip would become Felipe, I don’t know how they’d handle Scot :) What freaks me out is how accepted it is by the Spaniards. Yes it is fascism and the church has a long history of complicity in repression, and Spain has a very recent history of real fascism that, IMO, it hasn’t come to terms with yet, unlike the Germans for example. They have “liberalised” it but a local judge or public registrar can still object to a choice of name if it’s not officially approved, just like there was one who refused to take down a crucifix from his office for a couple who wanted a civil wedding exactly because they wanted no religious elements in the ceremony. A friend of my wife’s tried to register his daughter as “Mar” (Sea) and the registrar refused unless he called her “Virgin del Mare” or something similar from the church list.
As I understand it there is a ‘list’ which is published (I have a book with many of the names), in order to obtain a birth certificate the child’s name must be from the list. The list in turn consists primarily of names of a historical or religous background (lots of Catholic saints names). Yep it’s pretty wierd – but it might explain why all the French folk at [company name] had fairly ‘regular’ names 8-) Jean-Louis, Jean-Baptiste, Pierre, Sylvie, Valerie, Cyril, Sabine. I suspect if you wished to use a different name ‘in common use’ the govt. can’t change that, but your birth certificate would still say Pierre even if everyone else called you Granite (the name of a friends son).