Can I name my baby anything I want (WRT surnames)?

Too lame for GQ, but I’m curious nonetheless . . .

I had an interesting conversation with the significant other on yonder Friday, where the subject of naming one’s children came up during an intermission of the Bruins & Sabres game. . . Can someone name their child pretty much anything they want?

Disclaimer: I am not pregnant, 'cause I’m a guy, and that would be statistically impossible. We live in the US, in the fair state of New Mexico.

Say, for instance, my beloved Devils had a fantastic run to the Stanley Cup Finals another statistical impossibility, and in the height of the Finals’ week, was due to deliver. Is there anything preventing me, Tripler O’Shaughnessy, from naming my child ‘Martin Brodeur’–basically changing the last name from mine–because I’m such a huge fan? Or, since we’re in NM, Jesse James for some historical fun?

I get that hospitals have policies against certain names (i.e., “Hitler” is discouraged, and “Null” is a no-go due to computer issues), but I would stick to my guns–policy is not law. But for the life of me, I cannot find anything that says I cannot legally name my child in a different surname.

Yes, Marty’s retired–but he’s still alive!

Per this

The child’s last name on a birth certificate

District law determines the last name (or “surname”) that can be given to a child. The last name can be:

The mother’s surname when the child was born;
The father’s surname when the child was born;
Both parents’ names, recorded in any order, hyphenated or unhyphenated; or
Any surname to which either the mother or father has a familial connection.  The District’s Vital Records Division requires a parent to sign an affidavit attesting to the familial connection.

For the father’s last name to be the child’s last name, he has to be recognized by law as the father.

This applies only to the District of Columbia.



In Alabama, you can name baby anything you want — last name included. (Some states require baby’s last name be the same as the mother or father, but not Alabama.) Only the English alphabet is allowed. While apostrophes and hyphens are okay, numbers and symbols aren’t.

I’m sure it depends on the state ( and the person entering the info) - this is from my state’s handbook regarding data entry

LAST – Enter the last name of the child according to the following instructions:
Married Couple: A married couple may select any surname for their child. They may choose the traditional paternal surname, the maternal surname, the maternal maiden name, a combination of paternal and maternal surnames (hyphenated or otherwise), a name derived from ethnic custom, a name unrelated to the parents, etc (snip info about when parents disagree)

Unmarried Mother: The mother may select any surname that she wants for the child.She may even choose the name of the putative father regardless of whether or not he has signed an Acknowledgment of Paternity.Without an Acknowledgment of Paternity, surname, in and of itself,does not prove parentage.

Widowed or Divorced: Selection of surname will depend on when the child was conceived. If conception occurred before the husband’s death or the divorce was finalized, handle in the same manner as for a married couple

The Master once spoke on this.

Also, the thread “A Baby named Lexxus” from the year 2000.

As covered above, you can name your child mostly anything. What you can’t do is use that name for fraudulent purposes. If you named your baby Martin Brodeur Jr and implied that he was the son of Martin Brodeur, then you might get into some trouble.

IIRC, for the most part, you can call yourself anything regardless of your legal name, but you can’t use it for fraudulent purposes.

I think parents should take the child’s future feelings in consideration when naming them. If my dad had insisted on naming “Raquel Welch” because she was a Hollywood sex symbol with whom he was infatuated, it wouldn’t have sat well with me when I got old enough to understand.

Also, with exposes coming out on an almost daily basis about highly regarded people actually being scumbags, there is the risk that your hero becomes a prisoner in a jump suit. I mean, if someone had named their son “Bill Cosby”, it would be pretty damn embarrassing now, wouldn’t it?

This is a question that has an answer, depending on jurisdiction. Moving to GQ.

But what if your surname is Null?

Wikipedia has six Null-surnamed folks famous enough to have a page.

The most notorious Null is the alt-med pusher who seriously poisoned himself with his own vitamin D supplement. You don’t want to hang that name on a child.

But yes, parents can name their kids pretty much anthing. And they do.

“I wanted little Xoloitzcuintli Cannabis-Ikea to be unique!”

This is what came to mind for me too, when I read this topic title.

I recall an argument reported in the papers for some couple in France who wanted to name their child “Cerise” and apparently the state said that was an unacceptable name. Whereas Tony Blair’s wife is Cherie. (Her name, that is…)

But again, that’s first names. I assume in this age of immigrants from anywhere, it’s pretty hard to regulate names, first or last. More interesting, some cultures put the “surname” first. I wonder how that is accommodated.

I could do that, and instead of Martin, I could name him Sue.

Otherwise, interesting links, y’all. . . thank you!

The kid’ll be fine.

While it’s pretty much anything goes for baby names in the United States, there are some restrictions in Europe, especially Germany. Last names as first names is generally verboten there.

And you couldn’t move to Norway and take my last name. Since there are less than 200 of us in Norway it’s protected and you’d have to prove you had a recent ancestor with that name or marry someone with the name.

One thing in the US is that no proof of last name is required of the parents, so they claim they use a certain last name. The last names on my and my sister’s birth certificates (of both the parents and the child) differ. They had started informally (no legal action) using a different name during the years before she was born and that’s what they put on her certificate.

This would not fly here in Quebec where the government controls the last names rigidly. A woman may not use her husband’s name legally, for example. A woman I know married a cousin of the same name and had continual problems with it. The payroll computer at the college she taught in refused to issue a paycheque until she changed the spelling of her husband’s name.

“… how do you DO???
now you gonna die…” :laughing: :sunglasses:

Yep, it goes by jurisdiction – from the Puerto Rico Civil Code:

Article 82.-Right to a name.

Every natural person has the right to have and to protect their name, which must be registered in the Demographic Registry in accordance with the law.

Names offensive to the dignity of the person will not be registered.

Article 83.-Content of registration

The name of a person includes the proper or individual name, attached to the first family surnames of the parents.

Article 84.-Recognition and registration by a single parent.

If only one of the parents recognizes and registers the person born, it does so with the two surnames in the same order of that same parent. The subsequent recognition of the other parent justifies the substitution of one of the surnames in the person’s name for that of the parent who recognizes later.


Article 557.- Filiation determines the surnames.

Natural or adoptive filiation [note: legal determination of being-a-child-of] will determine the surnames of the natural person.

Article 558.-Rights arising from filiation.

The child has the right to:

(a) bear the surname of each parent;

In the Demographic Registry law, which in our jurisdiction is a special-case under the general-case of the Civil Code:

Article 19. - The original of the birth certificate, which will be kept in its files by the Demographic Registrar, will contain the following information, which is hereby declared necessary for the legal, social and health purposes of registering the birth:

(3) Name and surnames of the child. If has not yet been received a name at the time of the registration [note: at the time of this being written in 1931, this probably meant if the child had not yet been publicly named by christening], the declarant of his birth will state which name is to be entered, but the person in charge of the registry will not enter extravagant names or names of animals or in any way inappropriate for persons, nor will it admit that surnames known as such become forenames.

(When registering, the parent/s are required to themselves provide ID but it’s usually just whatever they have at hand.)

In practice, the provision about “extravagant” names has never quite been too strictly adhered but rather more focused on complying with the overarching Civil Code mandate to not wound the dignity of the named. And that in turn seems construed as meaning that the words used in the name be themselves insulting or demeaning, rather than for instance being named Jeffrey Epstein Molina.

So in back home the kid must be given the surname(s) of at least the parent claiming them, and by law the registrar is not supposed to let you name your child the equivalent of Dog Lezcano, Secretariat Martínez, Peptobismolgummies Sosa or Slutwhore Cruz, or use one of the -ez surnames or others usually recognized as such as a first name (there ARE a number of names in Spanish that historically serve both as name and surname - Cruz, Rosa, Santiago, Rosario, Martín, for example, so the idea seems to be to stick to the traditionals).

So at least in my home soil it seems your choices would be to call them Martin Brodeur Tripler(-MrsTriplersMaidenName) or Jesse James Tripler(-MrsTriplersMaidenName).

Hang on, I’m a little confused by this. . . and I admit, I’m looking at this through the eyes of Western custom. Doesn’t a woman who marries, traditionally take her husband’s surname? Wouldn’t that be legal “use” of her husband’s name? And why would the spelling of her husband’s name matter at all?

How rigid is the Provincial Government’s control? Is it first names, last names, or both? Isn’t there a unique Identifier like a Taxpayer ID or Social Security Number in use in Canada?

Is this just limited to Quebec?

I believe that " A woman may not use her husband’s name legally" means that a woman’s name cannot change her surname to her husband’s when she marries and that she therefore must use her own surname for legal purposes such as employment , bank accounts and so on. Using her husband’s surname socially of course cannot realistically be regulated.

Whether it’s traditional for a woman to change her surname depends on where - and tradition in and of itself is probably not enough for a legal change anymore in most places. For example, in NYS for some time now, the marriage license has a question for “surname after marriage” for both spouses, and if either or both are changing names the new surname will appear on the certificate (as shown on this page). The Quebec method if nothing else, at least eliminates something I see at work all the time - a coworker at the large bureaucratic government agency I work for gets married. She (and it’s always a she) changes her name via the marriage license/certificate -sometimes to the husband’s name, sometimes to a hyphenated one. She gives the certificate to human resources for whatever reason - sometimes to add her husband to her health insurance. And she then cannot figure out why all of her records including her email address and computer logins are now changed to her new legal name- because she apparently wanted to change her name legally but not change the name she used at work on a daily basis, which is not going to happen with a large bureaucratic government agency.

When I moved here in 1968, a married woman was required to use her husband’s name for legal purposes, although I guess she could use any name professionally she wanted. Then the law was changed, but instead of allowing her to choose, she was required to use her birth name. This is actually enforced only on her health card. When you pay income taxes they don’t care what name you use as long as you pay them. Now the woman I referred to was employed by a college whose computer had been (badly) programmed to reject anyone woman who claimed to use her husband’s name. She eventually changed what she put down as her husband’s name from a name ending in -sky to -ski. That satisfied the dumb computer. This is actually astonishing in a province in which perhaps 1% of the population is named Tremblay, so one in 10,000 at least would be Tremblay Tremblay.

When I was filling out research grant applications, the first question was always “Name (at birth)”. One of my co-applicants just used her married name anyway since that was the name she had on all of her papers and no one would recognize her by her maiden name. And I also ignored it since my name at birth was not the name I ever used for any purpose, certainly not on any paper I wrote.

But they are absolutely rigid about the health card. And the name on her vaccination passport, which will not be the name on her passport when we go to the US in a few weeks. Fortunately, her maiden name is the middle name in her passport and we assume they will know how crazy Quebec is. As for me, the Quebec government has no record of the name on my birth certificate. If they did, I would have problems. It was never legally changed.