Names that Get the Authorities Involved

Cyanide.  According to BBC, a Welsh mother tried naming her daughter after the poison.  Her reasoning?  Because Hitler took it before committing suicide, which is a “good thing.”

Okay…yes, I think we can all agree that the substance was beneficial in that circumstance.  But, Hitler’s not the only person who’s ever ingested cyanide, and logic dictates that a) Cyanide is a bad name if innocent people have died by it and b) this mother should instead name her daughter after the gun with which he finished the job instead.  After all, who hasn’t heard of kids named Beretta, Colt, or Ruger? 

Cyanide and her twin brother Preacher, along with their other siblings, have apparently been taken from their mother’s care.  I don’t think the Brits have naming laws the way Continental Europeans often do, but that doesn’t mean social services and the justice system won’t become involved when a name is considered particularly heinous.  On the opposite side of the spectrum and the Pond from this Welsh mother, a New Jersey father had his children taken away after it emerged that he named his son Adolf Hitler.  In both cases, the parents were suspected of some kind of abuse (drug abuse, child abuse, etc.) or mental illness.  The New Jersey case is especially telling because the U.S. generally has no naming laws beyond the prohibition of numeric and special characters.  However, certain baby names can and will instigate investigations because they may be indicative of other dangerous behaviors the parents have.  Yet, plenty of children are named Gunner (ranks #235 in the American charts) and you never hear stories about them.  I wonder, though, if naming a child Violence, Alcohol, or Marijuana would alert the authorities. 

5 thoughts on “Names that Get the Authorities Involved

  1. I remember a story (maybe last year?) here in the U.S. where a judge ordered a mother to change her son’s name because it was religiously offensive. The kid’s name was Messiah. I’m pretty sure the judge’s ruling was overturned and the kid got to keep his name.

    I’m not saying that the mother naming her daughter Cyanide is a good thing- it is a poison after all- but if her only crime was naming her daughter an offensive name, that’s not a good enough reason for taking her children away. Maybe the woman wasn’t a good mother, maybe there was neglect or abuse there, I don’t know the full story- but if there wasn’t and the name was what made authorities take her children away, than they shouldn’t have done it. Same thing with the parents who named their kid Adolf Hitler. Repugnant, yes, and sad that anyone would want to pass down that kind of hatred and belief to their children, but if their only crime was offending social sensibility or believing in something horrible, than that’s no reason for social services to get involved if there are no signs of physical harm to the children. It’s easy for anyone to judge others, and just as easy to decide that they aren’t good parents or good people.

    Names are difficult things. We all have our own opinions on them- too fusty, too common, too uncommon- and some of them have been made famous (or infamous) by history like Adolf (not every Adolf is a power hungry psychopath) or Jesus (funny how the Spanish version is very common but naming an actual person after the prophet would be considered odd or unusual), or Madonna, Cher, Elvis.

    I think my point is that just because a name could be considered harmful to a child’s upbringing, it’s not an excuse for authorities to come in and take the child away. After all, history is full of kids being taken away from families because of their religion or faith (Native American children were taken from their families and raised in Western culture, forbidden to speak their own language, encouraged to abandon their peoples’ ways, and accept Christianity). There was a case in the 1850s/60s where a six year-old boy was taken from his Jewish family and raised under the care of the church because apparently a maid had given him an emergency baptism when he was a baby and that made him a Catholic in the eyes of the church. Edgardo Mortara is the name and it’s a heart-breaking case.

    To reiterate, when the state starts getting involved in what parents decide to name their children it starts a slippery slope. Who gets to decide that a name is bad? And what gives the state the authority to even get involved? I was just reading an article on BBC about how social services in Norway have a tendency of taking children away from their families with little or no reason to do so. Apparently a “lack of parenting skills” is the most cited reason why. I put a link below.

    And that’s what makes me uneasy. That anyone can just come in and say we’re going to take your children because there’s a concern of so and so. That anyone can say- you named your child this and it’s unacceptable and it makes you a bad parent. It strikes me as straddling the line between bullying and abuse. None of us may understand or even condone naming your child Cynaide, Adolf Hitler, or Violence, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a bad parent, and it certainly isn’t a reason for the police and state to get involved.

    This has certainly turned out to be a longer post than I’d intended and I’m not sure I got what I wanted to say across. These are just my opinions and I know everyone has their own beliefs and I hope I haven’t offended anyone, but this is how I feel about the matter. This was an interesting article.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the insight, Apolla! Don’t worry about offending – discussion is very welcome, and indeed, encouraged! Your comment was thoughtful and interesting.

      I do remember the story about Messiah. The judge was understandably offended by the name, but freedom of speech trumps her discomfort. As to the children named after Hitler and the poison he took, I completely agree with you. A name alone is not enough to take children from their parents. My article was meant to point out which names are shown to cause action, but I do not necessarily condone said action. I rely on facts; however, my article may serve as a warning to some expectant parents. Now – social services did argue that Cyanide’s mother had drug issues, among other things. Her child’s name was probably seen merely as a sign of more generally insidious parenting conditions.

      “Slippery slope” is a good way to describe these things. As an American, I’m seriously glad for freedom of speech and the lack of naming laws. Of course, that didn’t stop the authorities from removing A.H. and his siblings from their home, but there *were* abuse claims. Maybe a name can indeed be abusive, but names require meaning and context to have any such significance.


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