Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Proposal to Restrict Names in Venezuela

For some reason the Venezuelan electoral ministry is proposing to limit first names of newborn children to a list of 100 government-approved names. From the New York Times:
Goodbye, Tutankamen del Sol.

So long, Hengelberth, Maolenin, Kerbert Krishnamerk, Githanjaly, Yornaichel, Nixon and Yurbiladyberth. The prolifically inventive world of Venezuelan baby names may be coming to an end.

If electoral officials here get their way, a bill introduced last week would prohibit Venezuelan parents from bestowing those names — and many, many others — on their children.

The measure would not be retroactive. But it would limit parents of newborns to a list of 100 names established by the government, with exemptions for Indians and foreigners, and it is already facing skepticism in the halls of the National Assembly...

Whimsical names can also be found in other Latin American countries. Honduras has first names like Ronald Reagan, Transfiguración and Compañía Holandesa (Dutch Company), according to the newspaper El Heraldo. In Panama, local news media this year reported name-change efforts by an Esthewoldo, a Kairovan and a Max Donald.

But Venezuela’s naming tradition rivals or exceeds that of its neighbors, many people here say. Some first names in Venezuela include Haynhect, Olmelibey, Yan Karll and Udemixon, according to a list compiled by the novelist Roberto Echeto...

Software searches of the voter registry find more than 60 people of voting age with the first name Hitler, including Hitler Adonys Rodríguez Crespo; eight Hochiminhs, among them Hochiminh Jesús Delgado Sierra; and six Eisenhowers, including Dwight Eisenhower Rojas Barboza.

Unusual names in Venezuela are often grist for awe or humor, but the issue is also politicized, given President Chávez’s gusto for renaming things, with critics of the bill claiming it would enhance his government’s naming authority in a realm where the fancy of parents still holds sway...

The authorities may yet bend to public will. Germán Yépez, an official with the National Electoral Council, said the measure originated after children were given names like Superman and Batman. Still, he said in comments broadcast on radio, he welcomed “this type of positive reaction and suggestions.”

I believe that Chávez is the subject of a lot of unjustified scaremongering from the U.S. foreign policy elite (including the New York Times) but this 100 names proposal is just loony.

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