Invented names may be banned

  • 2002-05-02
  • Staff and wire reports

The bizarre names Estonian parents are thinking up for their newborn babies are proving too much for the country's Interior Ministry. It has prepared new legislation to make Estonian names look and sound more Estonian.

A given name, according to amendments to the law on personal names, can have up to three parts, cannot have foreign letters (for example, c, w, z), and must not be longer than 30 characters, otherwise it will not fit in the Estonian passport.

Interior ministry officials and language experts are still discussing the proposed changes.

Tiit Sepp, the ministry's vice chancellor and the man behind the amendments, says parents are inventing increasingly stranger names for their children because they are experiencing an identity crisis.

"The new law would help to avoid names that sound too foreign, are hard to pronounce, or are simply weird," said Sepp.

The legislation would also set more complicated rules, such as the euphony of the full name. If the combination of three possible names made the full name sound ridiculous, registration would not be allowed. For example, Aita (meaning "help"), Leida ("find") and Kuusepuu ("Christmas tree") are possible names in Estonia, but together they would sound daft.

Foreign names that have an offensive meaning or sound offensive in Estonian would be banned. Parents would also not be able to use numbers in their children's names, or use the full names of celebrities. And a girl would not have a boy's name, and vice versa.

Annika Hussar, an Estonian language researcher at Tallinn's Pedagogical University, said parents who take foreign names have bad taste. But she conceded that to avoid confusion it would be good to have a manual for Registry Office workers, with concrete examples and name lists.

The Registry Office is currently operating under the old law on personal names, dated 1934.

Among 1,040 children born in Estonia in March, the most unusual names for girls were Enlil, Deby, Gerel Atheron, Piadoora and Alex-Sandra; for boys, Ston-Kender, Mardus, Toru-Tonn, Ott-Remus and Jarmo.