DAILY BRIEFING
Namely Confused

Feb. 5 - I had some ideas for baby names yesterday. These weren't like the baby name ideas I had Sunday night—names like Belichick, Brady, and Bruschi (although I think Bruschi Nagan has a nice ring to it). No, these were legitimate baby names.

I ran them by the DMG last night, and she was actually receptive to some of them. I don't mean to say she endorsed any of them, but she didn't rule them out, either. Not all of them. Not categorically.

She did astonish me, however, by issuing an injunction I hadn't anticipated:

"Remember," she said, "the name we give the baby in the hospital might not be its final name."

A quivering, radiant question mark appeared above my head.

"You know," she elaborated, "We might not be able to give the baby the name we want at first."

The question mark above my head began pulsating and throwing off sparks.

"I mean, there's the naming laws. You can't give your kid just any name. They have to be on the list of approved names."

At this point the question mark disappeared with an audible pop. The only thing pulsating and throwing off sparks was my own expression.

"I know, I know, I know," the DMG hastened to add. This is her particular spell for assuaging my ruffled sensibilities. "It's an old rule, it's kind of silly, but there it is. Anyway, if the name we pick isn't on the list we just go down to the government or wherever and they'll usually approve it if they don't think it's silly... You know, like that American guy who just named his kid Version 2.0. That was silly."

"Yeah. but it's none of their business if—"

"I know, I know, I know..."

"You know what I want to name our kid? Boy or girl, let's call it, FuckTheDanishNamingLaw."

The DMG laughed, but it was the kind of laugh that contained within it a firm but gentle reminder that I had better not even pretend I was being serious.

But I was. Here's what I found on the Web:

"Although every child [in Denmark] is given a number at birth, no child is named until the parents verify that the name appears in a list of officially approved names. If so, the child is registered in the Kirkebog [Churchbook], maintained by the state-supported Lutheran church. If not, the parents must apply to an office in Copenhagen, which will refuse permission to use the name if it considers it frivolous or inappropriate. The naming law actually dates from a much-needed reform enacted decades ago. Germans have a similar law..."

Now, that's from the personal blog of a guy who lived in Copenhagen very briefly, but it sounds like a reasonable enough encapsulation of the law. That is, it says pretty much what the DMG said, so I'll assume it's legit.

I'm trying to imagine what particular problem produced this "much-needed reform." Were Danes naming their children after chemical compounds? Were they giving them numbers instead of names? What? Why on earth would it ever be a good idea to put the government in control of something parents have been doing perfectly well on their own, without complaint, for thousands and thousands of years?

The large immigrant Arab population must have had a difficult time with these laws, I speculated, and the DMG confirmed that they had. Presumably the Lutheran Danish Kirkebog has been updated to accommodate Ahmads, Muhammads, Kemals, and Alis, which don't strike me as especially Danish or Lutheran names.

Now, if the Danish government is going to approve non-Danish, non-Lutheran names, then the law's only logical defense—that it's an attempt to preserve Danish "culture" in the face of unprecedented immigration—crumbles to dust and it becomes a sheer nanny rule. The Danish government must approve your child's name because you yourself might give your child an "inappropriate" name.

In other words, the Danish Equivalent of Children's Protective Services considers bad naming a form of child abuse.

Paging Moon Unit Zappa! Your lawsuit awaits...

* * *

Whenever I get a little disappointed by Denmark, she comes right back and rocks my world.

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced earlier this week that there would be no investigation into Denmark's participation in the coalition that removed Saddam Hussein from power.

According to the Copenhagen Post, which is published in English and therefore doesn't demand too much from my translation skills, Mr. Fogh Rasmussen said that "The holding of an investigation implies that there is something to be investigated. But the Danish government's decision to take part in the war in Iraq was based on sources that were completely open and material that was accessible to all, so there is nothing to investigate."

Bully for Denmark.

It almost makes me wish George W. Bush had said that WMDs were just one of many reasons for liberating Iraq from the bloody claws of its dictator. That he had said something like, "Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause, and a great strategic goal. The people of Iraq deserve it; the security of all nations requires it. Free societies do not intimidate through cruelty and conquest, and open societies do not threaten the world with mass murder. The United States supports political and economic liberty in a unified Iraq."

Sigh.

According to the Post, "The Danish Parliament is to hold a one-day hearing on Iraq and Denmark's participation in the second Gulf War on March 24, though the opposition has been clamouring for a full inquiry."

The Marius Legacy

Today is Liberation Day in San Marino. Americans remain woefully misinformed about San Marino.

(American remain woefully misinformed about most countries that aren't located between Canada and Mexico, but today is only Liberation Day in San Marino and I'm not going to get off-topic.)

About seventeen-hundred years go, during an epic game of hide and seek, Marinus the Stonemason ran up Mount Titano in Italy to hide from the Roman Emperor Diocletian. It was a good hiding spot and he was never found. He started his own country to pass the time, and the Republic of San Marino survives to this day, an island of foreign nationals in the middle of Italy.

Citizens of San Marino are not San Mariners. They are Sammarinese.

The population of San Marino is about 25,000. The population of San Marino, California, is about 13,000.

The California town was named in 1878 by James de Barth Shorb, who had built his home there and didn't think people would go for Shorbtown. Instead, he named it after the Maryland town in which he'd been born.

That was reportedly San Marino, Maryland, which the California town's website claims to have been named "for the tiny European republic."

There is no Maryland town named San Marino. (If there is, they haven't yet made their presence felt on Google.) Foul play is obviously afoot. Proceed with caution.

Today is Constitution Day in Mexico, J.L. Runeborg's Birthday in Finland, and, as you know perfectly well by now, Liberation Day in San Marino.

Jennifer Jason Leigh turns 32 today. She shares her birthday with Barbara Hershey (1948), Roger Staubach (1942), Hank Aaron (1934), Red Buttons (1919), William Burroughs (1914), and Adlai Stevenson (1900).

Happy Thursday!

2004, The Moron's Almanac™

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