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  1. #1
    atabitaraf is offline Senior Member
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    Names in English speaking countries

    Is there any criteria for choosing people's names, or changing them, in English speaking countries?
    Like you should choose your child's name from national names or maybe it shouldn't be among some special names like god, Jesus, satan, evil, ... or the last names should be only paternal or maternal or that can be anything without any rule.
    Please tell me if there are different rules for first and last names.
    Thank you.

  2. #2
    emsr2d2's Avatar
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    Re: Names in English speaking countries

    With a few exceptions, parents in the UK can name their child anything at all. It doesn't have to be a name or even a word. People invent names all the time. In recent years, we have seen "Apple" (Gwyneth Paltrow's daughter), "Chardonnay" (lots of young girls have been named after this white wine), Fifi Trixibelle (Bob Geldof's daughter) and a whole range of other names which parents seem to choose in an effort to make their child more individual. Many of them seem to be unaware of the fact that the main result will be that people will make fun of the child because of their ridiculous name.

    There is no national list of acceptable names. As I said at the beginning, there are some names which are not permitted. At the moment, I can't find the details but, for example, you can't call your child "Queen Elizabeth the Second". You are not allowed to use a first name which is also a title, as it could be assumed that you are trying to claim some kind of aristocratic title to which you are not entitled. So Mr and Mrs Smith can't name their son "Lord Smith".
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

  3. #3
    5jj's Avatar
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    Re: Names in English speaking countries

    Last names: In the UK, a child's last name (surname) is normally the surname of the father. However, if the father has taken to the hills, then the mother can choose to give the child her surname. If the parents have decided to combine their pre-marriage surnames (eg, if Emma Twais and Luke Erknight decide that they will become Emma and Luke Twais-Erknight), then their children will normally have the hyphenated surname.

    First names (forenames): There are no legal restrictions on the forenames parents may impose on their children in the UK. If I, Jon Webb, wish to call my offspring O Wotta Tangled, then I can.

  4. #4
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: Names in English speaking countries

    In the UK, you can change your name officially- it's called changing your name by deed poll. For example, Elton John was originally called Reginald Dwight. He used Elton John as a stage name, then changed his name by deed poll, so his official name is Elton John.

  5. #5
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    Re: Names in English speaking countries

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    With a few exceptions, parents in the UK can name their child anything at all.[...] there are some names which are not permitted. At the moment, I can't find the details but, for example, you can't call your child "Queen Elizabeth the Second". You are not allowed to use a first name which is also a title, as it could be assumed that you are trying to claim some kind of aristocratic title to which you are not entitled. So Mr and Mrs Smith can't name their son "Lord Smith".
    I am fairly sure that this is not correct. I believe that this information is correct. As far as I know, Parents can call their children 'Lord Smith', and you can change your name by deed poll to 'Lord Smith'.

    Although it makes life easier to change your name by deed poll, there is no legal obligation to do so. All you need to is inform all the people you deal with that you now wish to be known by the name you have chosen.
    Last edited by 5jj; 17-Feb-2013 at 14:36. Reason: typo

  6. #6
    emsr2d2's Avatar
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    Re: Names in English speaking countries

    Ah, fair enough. I couldn't remember where I had seen/read that but I will entirely accept that I was incorrect. Once upon a time, I found a website which clearly stated what names were absolutely not allowed under UK law but I haven't been able to find it again.
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  7. #7
    5jj's Avatar
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    Re: Names in English speaking countries

    I searched and found nothing. I have to admit that I found no conclusive proof that all names are allowable, but that has always been my understanding.

    I do know that a deed poll is not essential if you want to change your name. I decided to make a small change in the name I was given at birth; this was accepted without question when I simply informed the passport authorities and anybody else I thought should know.

    Unfortunately, my driving licence still has my birth name. Before the DLA would accept my changed name when they introduced licences with photos, I had to send them my birth certificate or my passport. My birth certificate still has my birth name, and I rarely stay in England long enough to be able to risk sending my passport away. So, my passport and my driving licence bear two slightly different names.This caused slight problems when I hired a car in Oman. The authorities found it hard believe that I could have two official documents in different names, even though the difference amounted only to the dropping of 'h' from 'John'.

    My wife changed her forenames completely with no difficulty.

  8. #8
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    Re: Names in English speaking countries

    In English-speaking North America there are no restrictions on the first names (forenames) that can be given to children. I think, but am not certain, that it is up to mothers to decide what surname their babies will bear. A person can also easily change his or her name by a simple legal process.

    In Quebec, however, they are pursuing their usual misguided attempts to ape the French and control what forenames parents may choose. See:

    Names Challenged in Quebec - Avalanche, Glacier, C'est-un-Ange - Nancy's Baby Names - Baby name blog featuring girl names, boy names, rare baby names, popular baby names, baby name popularity graphs, baby name meanings, and more.

  9. #9
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: Names in English speaking countries

    I'm not in favour of controls, but the media did report a baby somewhere that the parents wanted to call Satan, which did seem an ill-advised choice.

  10. #10
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    Re: Names in English speaking countries

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    I'm not in favour of controls, but the media did report a baby somewhere that the parents wanted to call Satan, which did seem an ill-advised choice.
    I imagine that name is inoffensive to much of the world's population. I'm not in favour of controls - I just feel it's unfair if a child will be made fun of for years because of its name.
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