Laying Down Names Law

September 03, 1995|By New York Times News Service

BONN, Germany -- What's in a name? Ask Hans Peter Hainen and the answer will be just about everything from the Nazi past in Germany to the worst nit-picking of its modernity.

His specialty is names, the names that people may call their children, the names that people may acquire when they marry and those they may inherit.

Such is Mr. Hainen's concern with names that he has become renowned as the author of "The Law of Names," a slender monograph composed in his free time to guide others in his profession.

"The Germans aspire to do everything by law and regulation," he said. "They don't want to leave anything to chance."

People seem to take care that names conform to the Law of Names, which has been gathering a carapace of precedents and juridical rulings since it was written in 1900.

"In Germany, the gender of the child must be recognizable from the first name," Mr. Hainen said.

What about "Hemingway" and "Jesus"? Both were ruled unlawful as first names by German courts in 1984 and 1985 respectively. "Lafayette Vangelis" was rejected as a male name, as was

"Woodstock," in 1989, as a female name.

Junior, Jr. and Jun. are out as adjuncts to names, and there is no point trying to call a child Junior to get around the ruling, because that's out, too.

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