In an odd decision, a judge has ruled that a French couple may not name their daughter Nutella. A baby in the French city of Valenciennes was recently named for the chocolate-hazelnut spread, but a local judge renamed her Ella after ruling that the first name Nutella wasn’t in the child’s best interest, according to the newspaper La Voix du Nord. According to Time’s translation, the judge ruled that the name would cause unnecessary harm to the child, in the form of teasing and bullying.
“The name ‘Nutella’ given to the child is the trade name of a spread. It is contrary to the child’s interest to be wearing a name like that can only lead to teasing or disparaging thoughts.”
In the United States, people may find it a little strange, but U.S. citizens are fairly immune to strange or unusual names. A cultural melting pot, the United States sees a lot of ethnic names, last names used as first names, traditional male names used as female names, children named after emotions and famous events. But in other parts of the world, this may not only be frowned upon, but it may be illegal. Pamela Redmond Satran, author of The Baby Name Bible and co-creator of Nameberry.com, says a number of countries have long had laws protecting kids against seemingly odd names.
“In France, Napoleon outlawed names that might subject a child to ridicule. In Norway, a child may not be named what is traditionally a last name. I have friends who had a baby — the mother was Norwegian and the dad was American and they lived in Norway — and they wanted to name their son ‘Russell’. They had to show documentation to the court that it was a commonly used first name in the U.S. since it was considered a surname over there.”
In Germany, you must be able to clearly discern a baby’s gender from their first name, Satran said.
“You couldn’t name your daughter Wyatt, the way Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis did. And New Zealand has pretty strict naming laws — you can’t use names that are generally titles or honorifics, like Prince, King, or Princess, which are becoming more popular in the U.S.”
Research may show that some of these judges actually have a point. Research from Northwestern University shows that odd names or odd spellings, or those that have “linguistically low-status” letter combinations in their names, like “kz” instead of “x” (Alekzandra instead of Alexandra, for example), get worse treatment in school. Other studies have shown there is little truth to that theory, and that people with unique names may actually have an advantage in life.
Satran says she agrees with the judge, who has said “Ella” is fine, but not “Nutella.” She said that while Nutella is delicious, she wouldn’t want to be named after a dessert.
“I wouldn’t want to be named pudding or popsicle, either.”
What do you think, readers? Is “Nutella” an appropriate name? Did the Judge overstep his boundaries?