How To: Change Your Name
Because the Government's Making You
Naming your baby Brooklynn, America, or Lindsee might be acceptable (if mockable) in the good ol' US of A, but don't try a stunt like that in Denmark. Of all the European laws regulating baby names, Denmark's are the strictest. Danish parents must choose from a state-approved list of 7,000 names, which seems like a lot, until you fall in love with a name that isn't on there. And bucking the system means months of slogging through a bureaucratic process to get your chosen moniker individually approved by the Names Investigation Department and the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs. Each year, those organizations reject 15 to 20 percent of the names they review—all in the, uh, "name" of protecting the baby's dignity.
Because You Aren't As Religious As Your Parents
Forget the hippies, the award for #1 crazy-baby-name subculture absolutely has to go to the Puritans. Well known for burning eccentric neighbors, forcing adulterers to wear colorful letterman jackets, and condemning the concept of "fun" in general, Puritan culture was basically a big ball of repressed wackiness looking for an outlet. Thus, did little Silence, Humiliation, and Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin (i.e. the writing on the wall from the Book of Daniel) pay the price for their parents' self-flagellation. Some, however, later rebelled. Sometime before 1660, a preacher's son-turned doctor changed his name from Hath-Christ-Not-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Woudst-Be-Damned Barbone to the more sensible Nicholas Barbon. He went on to found the world's first insurance company, thus storing up treasures on Earth and probably getting himself in even more trouble with his dad.
For the Sake of A Little Publicity
Between 1965 and 1979, San Francisco painting contractor Bill Holland changed his name no fewer than three times. But Holland's odyssey wasn't part of some New Age attempt to find himself. Rather, it was a purely Capitalist scheme. In order to become easily identifiable as the "last name in the phone book" Holland took on the professional pseudonym of Zachary Zzzra. Over the next 15 years, he had to periodically add some "z's" as first a "Zelda Zzzwramp" and then a "Vladimir Zzzzzzabokov" ostensibly moved to town. By 1979, Holland's painting contract business could be found under the unwieldy moniker of Zachary Zzzzzzzzzra.