CLOSE
Original image
Getty Images

8 Countries With Fascinating Baby Naming Laws

Original image
Getty Images

Here in the U.S., you can name your kid almost anything, but that's not the case everywhere in the world. Let's take a look at some countries with pretty strict or otherwise fascinating baby-naming laws.

1. Germany

In Germany, you must be able to tell the gender of the child by the first name, and the name chosen must not be negatively affect the well being of the child. Also, you can not use last names or the names of objects or products as first names. Whether or not your chosen name will be accepted is up to the office of vital statistics, the Standesamt, in the area in which the child was born. If the office rejects your proposed baby name, you may appeal the decision. But if you lose, you'll have to think of a different name. Each time you submit a name you pay a fee, so it can get costly. When evaluating names, the Standesamt refers to a book which translates to "the international manual of the first names," and they also consult foreign embassies for assistance with non-German names. Because of the hassle parents have to go through to name their children, many opt for traditional names such as Maximilian, Alexander, Marie, and Sophie.

Rejected names: Matti was rejected for a boy because it didn't indicate gender.
Approved names: Legolas and Nemo were approved for baby boys.

2. Sweden

Enacted in 1982, the Naming law in Sweden was originally created to prevent non-noble families from giving their children noble names, but a few changes to the law have been made since then. The part of the law referencing first names reads: "First names shall not be approved if they can cause offense or can be supposed to cause discomfort for the one using it, or names which for some obvious reason are not suitable as a first name." First names must be reported to the Tax Agency, and they allow multiple first names, but if you later change your name you must keep at least one of the first names that you were originally given, and you can only change your name once. For instance, if you’re named John and want to change it to Jack, your new first name will be Jack John, keeping the original first name. Any further changes must be made through the Swedish Patent and Registration Office.

Rejected names: "Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116" (pronounced Albin, naturally) was submitted by a child's parents in protest of the Naming law. It was rejected. The parents later submitted "A" (also pronounced Albin) as the child's name. It, too, was rejected.

Also rejected: Metallica, Superman, Veranda, Ikea, and Elvis.
Accepted names: Google as a middle name, Lego.

3. Japan

In Japan, one given name and one surname are chosen for babies, except for the imperial family, who only receive given names. Except for a few examples, it is obvious which are the given names and which are the surnames, regardless of in what order the names have been given. There are a couple thousand "name kanji" and "commonly used characters" for use in naming babies, and only these official kanji may be used in babies' given names. The purpose of this is to make sure that all names can be easily read and written by the Japanese. The Japanese also restrict names that might be deemed inappropriate.

Rejected names: Akuma, meaning "devil."

4. Denmark

Denmark's very strict Law on Personal Names is in place to protect children from having odd names that suit their parents' fancy. To do this, parents can choose from a list of only 7,000 pre-approved names, some for girls, some for boys. If you want to name your child something that isn't on the list, you have to get special permission from your local church, and the name is then reviewed by governmental officials. Creative spellings of more common names are often rejected. The law states that girls and boys must have names that indicate their gender, you can't use a last name as a first name, and unusual names may be rejected. Of the approximately 1,100 names that are reviewed each year, 15-20% of the names are rejected. There are also laws in place to protect rare Danish last names.

Rejected names: Anus, Pluto, and Monkey.
Approved names: Benji, Jiminico, Molli, and Fee.

5. Iceland

The Iceland Naming Committee, formed in 1991, is the group that decides whether a new given name will be acceptable. If parents want to name their child something that is not included on the National Register of Persons, they can apply for approval and pay a fee. A name has to pass a few tests to be approved. It must only contain letters in the Icelandic alphabet, and must fit grammatically with the language. Other considerations include whether it will embarrass the child in the future and how well aligned it is with Icelandic traditions. It must have a genitive ending or have been previously adopted. Also, names should be gender specific, and no one can have more than three personal names.

Surnames in Iceland usually follow an interesting tradition. They are not family names, but are rather patronymic, or occasionally matronymic, with part of a person's last name including their father's name. If a father's name is Erik, then his son's surname would be Eriksson (or Erik's son), and his daughter's surname would be Ericsdóttir (or Erik's daughter). [note: According to one of our Icelandic _flossers, since 'C' is not an Icelandic letter, the correct spelling is 'Eiríkur' and his offspring would be Eiríksson/Eiríksdóttir, e.g. Leifur Eiríksson] Occasionally, there are true family names in Iceland, that are passed down to each generation. But they are usually in families originally from other countries, or in families where a family name was adopted at one point.

Approved name: Bambi
Rejected names: Harriet (it can’t be conjugated in Icelandic) and Duncan (there is no C in Icelandic.)

See Also...

The Least Popular American Baby Names According to Early Records

6. New Zealand

New Zealand's Births, Deaths, and Marriages Registration Act of 1995 doesn't allow people to name their children anything that "might cause offence to a reasonable person; or [...] is unreasonably long; or without adequate justification, [...] is, includes, or resembles, an official title or rank." Officials at the registrar of births have successfully talked parents out of some more embarrassing names.

Rejected names: Stallion, Yeah Detroit, Fish and Chips, Twisty Poi, Keenan Got Lucy, Sex Fruit, Satan, and Adolf Hitler

Approved names: Benson and Hedges (for a set of twins), Midnight Chardonnay, Number 16 Bus Shelter, Violence

7. China

Most new babies in China are now basically required to be named based on the ability of computer scanners to read those names on national identification cards. The government recommends giving children names that are easily readable, and encourages Simplified characters over Traditional Chinese ones. Parents can technically choose the given name, but numbers and non-Chinese symbols and characters are not allowed. In the 2000s, people were being advised to change their names for the benefit of the identification cards, although now the government is promising more support for obscure characters.

Rejected names: "@": Wang "At" was rejected as a baby name. The parents felt that the @ symbol had the right meaning for them. @ in Chinese is pronounced "ai-ta" which is very similar to a phrase that means "love him."

8. Norway

You are not allowed to use a first name that is traditionally a last name or a middle name, unless you come from a culture that doesn’t make that distinction. You’re also not allowed to change your name more than once every ten years. Apart from that, parents are not allowed to give a child a name that would be a major inconvenience. But the real fun comes in changing surnames. If you want to change your last name to something more than 200 people have, go for it! If 200 or fewer have it, you need to ask for permission from everyone with that name.

Previously rejected names: "Gesher" was rejected as a boy's first name to the point where the child's mother was jailed for refusing to pay the $420 fine.

Bonus: The United States

According to UC Davis law professor Carlton Larson, in Massachusetts, each name (first, middle, and last) must be shorter than 40 characters each for computer input reasons. And many states require using only the 26 letters of a standard keyboard. This means in California you can call a child Jose, but technically not José. And in Tennessee, a child of married parents can have either the surname of the father or the surname of the mother in combination with the surname of the father. Either way, the kid’s getting the dad’s name.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
arrow
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

Original image
Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
entertainment
arrow
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
Original image
Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES