Charles Moore

If it’s forbidden to call a baby Cyanide, should Chardonnay be allowed?

If it's forbidden to call a baby Cyanide, should Chardonnay be allowed?
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According to a recent law report in the Times, the Court of Appeal has just forbidden a mother to name her daughter Cyanide. The child was born to a schizophrenic woman, as the result of a rape. The girl is in local authority care. The mother’s lawyers argued that it is a statutory duty to register a child with a name and that the law has no provision to refuse offensive names. But Lady Justice King (itself a striking, though not offensive name) found that the choice of name was an act of ‘parental responsibility’. Because of the care order, this responsibility had devolved upon the local authority, which did not like the name Cyanide. So far, so good. But the judge also said that children were ‘capable of great unkindness’ and so ‘a name which attracted ridicule, teasing, bullying or embarrassment would have a deleterious effect on a child’s self-esteem’ and cause the child to resent ‘the parent who had inflicted it upon her’. This is so true, but is it a legal point? The country nowadays is full of children burdened with grotesque names. Are we to ban them? If you forbid Cyanide, should you permit Chardonnay? A further complication is that the little girl is a twin, and her mother wanted to call her twin brother Preacher. This too Lady Justice King forbade because, although Preacher ‘might not be an objectionable name’, ‘there was considerable benefit for the boy twin to be in the same position as his sister’ and for both to be named, as was proposed, by their half-siblings. We are not told what names the half-siblings want. I do hope it is something kind and simple, like Jack and Jill. In my mind’s eye is the old advertisement for Start-rite shoes, and the poor twins having so far to go on the long hard road of life.