Friday, March 1, 2013

Improper proper names

"Inappropriate, immoral and offensive names either for the state or the church " should be banned, wrote a German lawyer in 1800. Those, who give to their children any name, apparently violating the baptismal sacrament, should be enjailed. He gave eleven examples of unacceptable names:

  • Baal (Baal-Berith was the god of the Canaanite city, who later came to be viewed as the demon Baalberith)

  • Beelzebub (a Semitic deity that was worshiped in the Philistine city of Ekron. He is referred to as another name for Devil)

  • Bachus (Latin version of Dionysus, god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy in Greek mythology.)

  • Pan (In Greek mythology, Πᾶν is the god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature of mountain wilds, hunting and rustic music. He has the hindquarters, legs, and horns of a goat, in the same manner as a faun or satyr.

  • Mahomet (Mohammed

  • Knipperdolling (allusion to Bernhard Knipperdolling (1495 –1536), German leader of the Münster Anabaptists and that is why heretic and misbeliever)
  • Pudel (poodle)

  • Mops (pugdog)

  • Reichsfeind (rich enemy)

  • Rebell (rebel, rioter)

  • Menschenhasser (man-hater, misanthrope)


The first six names clearly fall into the category of 'blasphemous'. Baal, Beelzebub ("Lord of the flies"), Bacchus and Pan are pagan deities. It's the same with the Prophet Muhammad. The founder of Islam was seen as the enemy of Christianity.

Then, names related to heretics and Reformation which reflects itself in Rebel and Rich Enemy...

But what a surprise to find dog names as Poodle and Pug in the list. What could the writer have against it? Did he have something against dogs or he just found it inappropriate to give people animal names? I do not know.

I assume that this particular list has been extemporized by lawyer. It's hard to believe that in Germany of the 1800s there were parents who called their children called Muhammad, Beelzebub or Menschenhasser.

Taking into account the fact that nowadays only in Germany there are thousands of Muhammads, then prisons would be overcrowded... 

Based on the book by M. Mitterauer “Traditionen der Namengebung: Namenkunde als interdisziplinäres Forschungsgebiet”, Böhlau Verlag Wien 2011, pp. 167-168; and on my liberal translation of http://www.vernoeming.nl/godslasterlijke-voornamen?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Vernoeming+%28Vernoeming.nl%29