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Five Fact Friday - Names

Five Fact Friday - Names

This weekend marks 60 years since Queen Elizabeth II issued an Order-in-Council stating that she and her family would be known as the House of Windsor and that her descendants would take the name “Mountbatten-Windsor”.  Inspired by HRH, here are five facts about names and changing them.

1.Banning of names
“Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself”

There are not many rules in the UK surrounding what one can or cannot call oneself or their children.  Indeed, there is nothing in the regulations that says that a name even has to be in the Roman script or only consist of letters.  The registrar cannot refuse a name unless that name is illegal.  The most common names refused for being illegal are those that insight hate or are otherwise racist in some way.

There are stricter rules in other countries, such as:

  • Germany, where gender-neutral names, last names, names of objects, names of products as first names, and names that could negatively affect the child’s well-being or lead to humiliation are all banned.  So, for example, Matti, Adolf Hitler and Stompie have all been rejected and banned. 
  • In Iceland, any names that are not capable of having Icelandic grammatical endings, conflict with the linguistic structure of Iceland, or cannot be written in the Icelandic alphabet (which omits the letters C, Q, and W), are banned.  Among the names rejected are Zoe, Duncan, and Ludwig. 
  • Norway bans last names being used as first names, so Hansen, Olsen, and Larsen have all been banned. 
  • Malaysia bans names that are animals, insults, numbers, royal or honoury names, and food.  Chinese Ah Chwar (which means ‘snake’), Khiow Khoo (which means ‘hunchback’), and Sor Chai (which means ‘insane’) have all been rejected and banned. 
  • New Zealand has restrictions on the length of names as well as outlawing offensive names and names that signify an official title and/or rank.  Their banned list include Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii, Sex Fruit, and Cinderella Beauty Blossom. 
  • Saudi Arabia bans names that are ‘too foreign’, inappropriate, blasphemous, or not in line with the country’s social or religious traditions.  Binyameen, Malak (which means ‘angel’), and Maya have all been rejected and banned. 

Meanwhile, strict rules also apply to France (where ‘Nutella’ has been rejected), Switzerland (where ‘Judas’ is banned), Denmark (where ‘Jakobp’ has been rejected), Sweden (where ‘Metallica’ is banned), Mexico (where ‘Facebook’ has been rejected), and Portugal (where ‘Nirvana’ is banned).

2. Marriage and civil partnership name changes
“How great the dangers I face to win a good name”

By far the most common event to trigger a name change is, of course, marriage or civil partnership. 

A person who has married or entered a civil partnership, and who wants to take the name of their spouse or civil partner, usually only needs to produce their marriage or civil partnership certificate to the relevant office.  For example, the passport office will accept a marriage or civil partnership certificate as evidence of a name change before issuing a passport in that name and the same goes for the DVLA issuing a driving licence, as well as benefits agencies, banks, and building societies.

Similarly, in the event of a name change triggered by divorce or the dissolution of a civil partnership, a copy of the marriage or civil partnership certificate along with a cop of the decree absolute or final order will usually be enough evidence to change one’s name back to their original name.  However, a deed poll is still occasionally required in these circumstances.

3. Carrying on the family name
“I love the name of honour, more than I fear death”

Name changes were quite common in the English and Welsh nobility from the mediaeval age right up until the 19th century. 

If a nobleman was the last male of their bloodline, they would usually leave their titles and estates to a younger male relative such as a cousin or a nephew.  A condition of this inheritance however, often contained in the last will and testament, was commonly that the heir would have to adopt the surname (as well as the coat of arms) of the legator thus allowing often ancient families to continue. 

A similar scenario would often arise when a nobleman sought a husband for his sole daughter and heiress.  As part of the marriage settlement, it was often a condition that the husband should change his name to that of his father-in-law so that any children born from that marriage shall have the noble family’s surname.  Younger sons of other noble families were often chosen for this reason, as their older brother(s) could continue their own family name.  A private Act of Parliament or a Royal Licence was often needed to bring about these name changes.

4. Adopting a new name
“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to”

A person’s right to adopt a new name just by using it has been enshrined in English law for a very long time. 

As long ago as 1235 (or thereabouts) the cleric and jurist Henry de Bracton wrote that a person may adopt a name by which they are more frequently accustomed to be called.  In 1835, in the case of Davies v Lowndes, Chief Justice Tindal found that Mr Lowndes had validly changed his name to Selby simply by taking and assuming the new name.  More recently, in 1901, in the proceedings between Earl Cowley and Countess Cowley, Lord Linley confirmed that, generally speaking, law allows any person to assume and use any name, provided its use is not calculated to deceive and to inflict loss.

5. Deed poll declarations
“What’s in a name?”

When completing a change of name deed poll, three declarations must be made:

  1. That the applicant is abandoning their previous name. 
  2. That they will use their new name at all times. 
  3. That they require all persons to address them by their new name only. 

The declarations must be signed in both the applicant’s old name and their new name.  Anybody applying for a new name must ensure that it contains both a forename and a surname and it must be pronounceable.  The deed poll must be signed by two witnesses giving their names, addresses, and occupations and who cannot be related to the applicant.

Finally, just because I took the time to find them, here is a list of people that genuinely exist in the UK:- Justin Case, Barb Dwyer, Stan Still, Terry Bull, Paige Turner, Mary Christmas, Anna Sasin, Doug Hole, Hazel Nutt (apparently genuinely married to Pete(r) Nutt and they apparently genuinely called their son Don(ald) Nutt – not sure if I believe this one), Rose Bush, Anna Prentice, Annette Curtain, Bill Board, Pearl Button, Jo King, Barry Cade, Carrie Oakey, Priti Manek, Tim Burr, Daisy Picking, Iona Wolff.  My favourite is a banker name named Rob Mee who married a lawyer called Sue.

Should you want your name changed by deed poll or need advice on any other matter, Dutton Gregory is here to help.  With five offices across Hampshire and Dorset, Dutton Gregory provides legal expertise and dedicated client service. We work closely alongside both individual and corporate clients to achieve successful outcomes.

If you wish to speak to a member of our team, email them today at contact@duttongregory.co.uk or call your nearest office.