Choosing a name for a new baby is always tricky. Should it be classical or modern? Safe or a bit zany? One can only wonder how the parents of one unfortunate girl in New Zealand came up with... Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii.
The girl, now nine, was not amused. She refused to tell anyone, even her close friends, her name. When her parents split and launched a custody battle, it came to the attention of a judge, who ordered her to be made a ward of court until her name was changed.
The judge, Robert Murfitt, expressed horror at a recent trend in New Zealand for giving children unusual names. Among those that had been approved by birth registration officials were Number 16 Bush Shelter, Midnight Chardonnay, and Benson and Hedges (for twins).
In the Talula case, he ordered that her name be changed, saying it was highly embarrassing and made her a target for ridicule. Her lawyer, Colleen MacLeod, told the court that the girl was so mortified she instructed her friends just to call her simply "K".
In a written ruling, Judge Murfitt declared: "The court is profoundly concerned about the very poor judgement which this child's parents have shown in choosing this name. It makes a fool of the child and sets her up with a social disability and a handicap, unnecessarily. She fears being mocked and teased, and in that she has a greater level of insight than either of her parents."
Talula is from the city of New Plymouth, on the North Island. The judge said the problem appeared to be particularly prevalent in that area. Some children had been named after six-cylinder Ford cars, while he had recently come across a woman who wanted to call her daughter "O.crnia", using text language, but was persuaded to switch to Oceania.
Judge Murfitt said that family court judges around New Zealand were "dismayed by the eccentricity of names" that parents were giving their children.
While the goal of selecting a unique name could not be criticised, he said, "these parents have failed in exercising the first and important task of parenthood". Naming a child was not "a time to be frivolous or to create a hurdle for their child's future life". Apart from the social aspect, it could present problems when they registered for an exam, or applied for a passport or driving licence.
The ruling was handed down in February, but only became public yesterday, when it was published in the New Zealand Law Reports.
Brian Clarke, the registrar general of births, deaths and marriages, said that under New Zealand law, names must not "cause offence to a reasonable person"; be "unreasonably long" (more than 100 characters, including spaces); include an official title or military rank; or use punctuation marks, brackets or numerals.
Mr Clarke said that when parents proposed unusual names, officials would generally try to talk them out of it, pointing out the potential for embarrassment. "Often when we explain the situation to parents, we can agree on an acceptable name to register," he said.
Talula's name has now been changed but is being kept secret in order to protect the girl's privacy. The custody battle has also been settled.
What's in a New Zealand name?
Fish and Chips (twins)
Keenan Got Lucy
Cinderella Beauty Blossom
Masport and Mower (twins)
Number 16 Bus Shelter
Benson and Hedges (twins)
Four famous name changes
The American teen sensation, star of Hannah Montana and daughter of "Achy Breaky Heart" country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, was originally christened Destiny Hope. Nothing much wrong with that, you may think, but her childhood nickname of "Smiley Miley" (because of her sunny demeanour) eventually stuck for good. She has now formally adopted it, albeit in a slightly shorter version. She has an eight-year-old sister called Noah Lindsey, who is also in Hannah Montana, and a brother called Braison Chance.
Dweezil actually started off life as the relatively mundane Ian – but only because the hospital refused to register his father's original choice.
The daughter of Rolling Stone Keith Richards and model Anita Pallenberg was clearly not happy about her hippie name and is now known as Angela.
David Bowie's son, the inspiration for the song "Kooks" now uses the rather less exotic Duncan Jones, using his father's original surname.