August 1, 2006

Malaysian Government Lists Up "Undesirable" Names

Malaysia's no melting pot, it's a spice rack. And names are inextricably tied with religious and ethnic identity. So when the National Registration Department wanted to compile a list of "undesirable" baby names, it turned to Confucian, Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim organizations within the Chinese, Indian and Malay populations, respectively. So far, so good, right?

The undesirable names project was instigated by a generation of Chinese adults who were victims of an old naming trend; their parents had given them inauspicious names like Chow Tow [smelly head] and Sum Seng [gangster] to ward off evil spirits. Said a Buddhist leader involved in the list, "The Chinese are more educated now and prefer auspicious names." More educated, but not any less superstitious, I guess.

In addition to the undesirable names, which are ultimately just suggestions, the NRD published a list of forbidden names, which include: numbers [those superstitious Chinese again, I bet], fruit, vegetables, countries, colors, initials, royal titles, evil foreign dictators [Adolf Hitler & Stalin are out, but Osama is still in] --and Japanese car brands.

Ever feel like you're only getting half the story here?

Sorry, no more Zani, Ah Kow or Batumalai
[new straits times via tmn]


Oh great. Now what am I going to tell my son Toyota Seven when he grows up and all the kids point and laugh and call him Mr. Forbidden Names?

Aw, too bad for the Gwyneth fans who want to emulate their idol.

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