Have you ever noticed that it seems like all French kids have the same names? We Americans used to have every Tom, Dick or Harry. The French still have every Jean, Jacques, or Henri. It stems from an ancient tradition when most people were given names from the Roman Catholic calendar of saints. Many French people still celebrate two birthdays per year: their actual date of birth and the birthday of their namesake saint. Pascal was born on April 8th, but he also expects a "Happy Fête de Pascal" on the anniversary of Saint Pascal, May 17th.
For years, the French could only name their children by using a government-approved list. In the mid-sixties, a new law admitted some additional names that included a limited number of mythological, regional or foreign names, diminutives and alternative spellings. It wasn't until 1993, when parents were allowed to name their children without consulting a list. Still, even today, French parents aren't allowed to go completely crazy with their kid's new name. If the birth registrar thinks that the chosen names may be detrimental to the child's interests, the registrar may refer the matter to the courts who have the right to refuse the chosen names. Such refusals are rare and mostly concern given names that may expose the child to teasing or mockery. Thus, there are no French kids with names like Allison Wonderland or Mr. Brick Wall (real names of Americans according to parents on babyfit.com).
France is not the only country that worries about the names of its citizens. Last year, New Zealand authorities blocked a couple's bid to officially name their new son "4Real," saying numerals are not allowed. Sweden refused to allow a couple to name their daughter Metallica. And Germany has laws against naming children Adolf Hitler or Osama bin Laden. Of course, here in the United States, children have no protection against their parents' creativity (and in some cases, insanity). Can you believe that there are even two kids out there named ESPN, after the sports network? At least it’s easy to spell!
You know the price of gas has gotten really bad when parents will sell their child's name for a $100 gas card. Check out this unbelievable AOL News story.