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So what’s in a name?

Would you consider allowing somebody called “Audio Science” or “Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily” to service your expensive new car? How thrilled would you be to find out that the fellow in the white coat and rubber gloves standing expectantly by the dentist’s chair was actually a magician’s son called “Moxie Crimefighter Jillette”? Would you feel comfortable if somebody named “Moon Unit”, or “Dweezil”, or “Diva Muffin” was entrusted with processing your application for a bank overdraft? Well, people with those comic-book nametags actually do exist. Film starlet Shannyn Sossamon (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, A Knight’s Tale) thought it was really cool to lumber her brat with “Audio Science”, a name that sounds like a hi-fi repair course, while “Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily” got her unfortunate moniker compliments of her late mother, serial groupie Paula Yates, best known as the ex Mrs Bob Geldof. Yates also came up with “Fifi Trixibelle”, “Peaches Honeyblossom” and “Little Pixie” for her other three brats, so “Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily” wasn’t entirely alone in her misery.

The ridiculously named “Moon Unit”, “Dweezil” and “Diva Muffin” Zappa all owe their bizarre Christian names to their famous but seriously wacky dad, Frank. While Jason “My Name is Earl” Lee’s eight-year old son will no doubt cause a few raised eyebrows when he stands in the check-in queue at Los Angeles International Airport insisting loudly that he really IS the “Pilot Inspektor” Lee who’s booked on the 8:30 to New York. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and his wife, Jules, must have truly believed that their daughter was good enough to eat when they burdened her with the appellation of “Poppy Honey”, while her presumably less tasty siblings will have to answer to “Daisy Boo”, “Petal Blossom” and “Buddy Bear” when the last trumpet is sounded and the roll is called.

The worst thing, for me, was the recent revelation that some fans are just as stupid as their more famous role models because bizarre names for kids have started popping up all over the place. A horrible thought sprang to mind before I could suppress it: “There ought to be a law!” For somebody who hates red tape, rules and regulations, like I do, that was anathema. I even wrote a column a couple of years ago espousing an international agreement limiting countries to an absolute maximum of 300 laws each. If any more were proposed, existing ones would have to be expunged to make way for them, so legislators would for once be forced to focus on what’s really important. The Ten Commandments would of course be obligatory, along with my Eleventh – Thou shall not be a total dickhead. That would still leave politicians with 289 slots to fill with trivial issues while they spend our money.

I only discovered an hour or so ago that some countries already have laws dedicated to ensuring that children don’t suffer lifelong embarrassment because their parents hit the wine or smoked a couple of joints while mulling over names for their offspring. New Zealand made headlines a few years ago when a nine-year-old girl, who’d slipped through the net of officialdom dedicated to ensuring that silly names don’t happen to innocent children, asked the courts to allow her to change her name from “Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii” to something less cringeworthy. The judge, outraged by the imbecility of her parents, ordered the child be taken into the care of the court while her name change was processed. Other names fortuitously intercepted and strangled before they could take root included “Fish and Chips”, “Fat Boy”, “Keenan got Lucy”, “Sex Fruit” and “Yeah Detroit”, but officialdom inexplicably adjudged it okay to condemn one hapless little Kiwi to meander through life with “Number 16 Bus Shelter” as its legal moniker. “Violence” was also considered acceptable, as was “Benson” and “Hedges” for a pair of twins.

Sweden also has laws about the names its citizens can give their children, banning “Superman”, “Metallica” and “Elvis”, but then raising no objection to “Lego” or “Google”. I once read that a Swede was simply a German with the sense of humour beaten out of him, but that may not be entirely accurate.

So where does that leave me with my 300 laws? Am I saying we in South Africa, already swamped with red tape and paperwork at every turn, need yet another law? Not at all! All we need do is apply the Eleventh Commandment.


  • Gavin Foster

    Durban photojournalist Gavin Foster writes mainly for magazines. His articles and photographs have appeared in hundreds of South African, American and British publications, and he's also instigated and researched stories for Carte Blanche. Winner of the Magazine Publishers Association of South Africa PICA Profile Writer of the Year Award in 2008. South African Guild of Motoring Journalists Motorcycle Journalist of the Year (Magazines) 2015/16/17. South African Guild of Motoring Journalists Motorcycle Journalist of the Year (Overall) 2015/16. South African Guild of Motoring Journalists Motorsport Journalist of the Year (Magazines) 2017 - Runner-Up 2015/16.