Fun Name Change Cases:

I have a Slate piece this morning on the subject. It's got 1069, III, Mary R., Misteri Nigger, Santa Claus (plus Santa Robert Clause), Koriander, They, and even Darren QX [pronounced "Lloyd"] Bean!. (I use the period after the exclamation point advisedly.) Check it out.

The article also prompted some more submissions from readers. Chris Jenkins and Kevin Wells e-mailed me about Sheppard v. Speir (Ark. App. 2004), involves litigation between two unmarried parents over a child's name (a topic I didn't cover in my Slate piece). The name was "Weather'By Dot Com Chanel Fourcast Sheppard," selected by the mother; the father, a TV weatherman, sued for custody of the child, got it, and tried to change the name to Samuel Charles Speir. The question was whether Samuel Charles Speir was so unusual a name that it should be rejected.

No, wait, let me check my notes. OK, the question was about Weather'By Dot Com Chanel Fourcast, and the appellate opinion provides this excerpt from an exchange between the trial judge and the mother:

The Court: I simply do not understand why you named this child — his legal name is Weather'by Dot Com Chanel Fourcast Sheppard. Now, before you answer that, Mr. — the plaintiff in this action is a weatherman for a local television station.

Sheppard: Yes.

The Court: Okay. Is that why you named this child the name that you gave the child?

Sheppard: It — it stems from a lot of things.

The Court: Okay. Tell me what they are.

Sheppard: Weather'by — I've always heard of Weatherby as a last name and never a first name, so I thought Weatherby would be — and I'm sure you could spell it b-e-e or b-e-a or b-y. Anyway, Weatherby.

The Court: Where did you get the "Dot Com"?

Sheppard: Well, when I worked at NBC, I worked on a Teleprompter computer.

The Court: All right.

Sheppard: All right, and so that's where the Dot Com [came from]. I just thought it was kind of cute, Dot Com, and then instead of — I really didn't have a whole lot of names because I had nothing to work with. I don't know family names. I don't know any names of the Speir family, and I really had nothing to work with, and I thought "Chanel"? No, that's stupid, and I thought "Shanel," I've heard of a black little girl named Shanel.

The Court: Well, where did you get "Fourcast"?

Sheppard: Fourcast? Instead of F-o-r-e, like your future forecast or your weather forecast, F-o-u, as in my fourth son, my fourth child, Fourcast. It was --

The Court: So his name is Fourcast, F-o-u-r-c-a-s-t?

Sheppard: Yes....

The Court: All right. Now, do you have some objection to him being renamed Samuel Charles?

Sheppard: Yes.

The Court: Why? You think it's better for his name to be Weather'by Dot Com Chanel ... Fourcast, spelled F-o-u-r-c-a-s-t? And in response to that question, I want you to think about what he's going to be — what his life is going to be like when he enters the first grade and has to fill out all [the] paperwork where you fill out — this little kid fills out his last name and his first name and his middle name, okay? So I just want — if your answer to that is yes, you think his name is better today than it would be with Samuel Charles, as his father would like to name him and why. Go ahead.

Sheppard: Yes, I think it's better this way.

The Court: The way he is now?

Sheppard: Yes. He doesn't have to use "Dot Com." I mean, as a grown man, he can use whatever he wants.

The Court: As a grown man, what is his middle name? Dot Com Chanel Fourcast?

Sheppard: He can use Chanel, he can use the letter "C." ...

The court of appeals finished with, "we hold that the trial court did not err in determining that it was in the child's best interest to change his name."

Robert Schwartz also mentions professional comedian Woody Volcano Viagra, but this sporting event I'm running here operates on a strictly amateur basis.

UPDATE: From Patricia Reardon comes the case of Romanceo Sir Tasty Maxibillion. Romanceo -- er, Adrian Scott Williams -- lost, because he was a felon and the state persuaded the court that its "legitimate need to identify Williams by his current name constituted sufficient cause ... to deny Williams' petition."

Timothy Sandefur (mail) (www):
It's too bad you didn't have space to discuss my favorite name change case, re. "Steffi Owned Slave." The court, in rejecting the request, expands at (very interesting) length on the history of slavery law in New York: In re Bobrowich, 2003 WL 230701 (N.Y.City Civ.Ct. January 06, 2003).
7.30.2008 1:27pm
I often wonder about perfectly normal names that have been ruined. I knew a political science professor named Ronald McDonald (so named years before the commercial icon, but a bad idea anyway). There was a federal judge named George Washington, who used to tell stories about the looks he'd get after registering at hotels with his attractive blonde wife as "Mr. &Mrs. George Washington." I don't know how common a last name "Hitler" is in Germany, but I imagine few of that last name chose the common first name "Adolph" for their sons. (The tv series "NYPD Blue" featured as a recurring character a narcoleptic comedian named Vic Hitler, Jr.) And what Einstein would have the nerve to name his son Albert? I doubt that Tom Arnold would name his son Benedict, even if he were a big fan of the current Pope. I remember a case brought by one Abraham Lincoln against the United States -- a postal employment matter, if memory serves.
7.30.2008 1:31pm
I went to school with a girl named Candy Cotton.

As a criminal defense attorney, I sometimes get some rather unusually named clients. Currently on my caseload are "Serpentfoot" and "Wizard." (Both are legal names, not street names)
7.30.2008 1:38pm
AnoNM (mail):
Recently in New Mexico the Court of Appeals upheld the rejection of "F--- Censorship" (without the dashes, of course). The petitioner's name was (and still is) Variable (and before that it was Snaphappy Fishsuit Mokiligon).
7.30.2008 1:52pm
FXK (mail):
I could understand not allowing a felon to change his name to John Smith, but why not Romanceo Sir Tasty Maxibillion? I would think having an extremely unusual name would make it easier to keep track of him.
7.30.2008 1:56pm
What about ? of ? and the Mysterians?
7.30.2008 2:15pm
R Gould-Saltman (mail):
I, however, went to school with Ginger Pepper.

I get the rational state interest in "letters only, less than a hundred characters, no numerals, and punctuation limited to hyphens and apostrophes"
as "rational place and manner" restrictions dictated by logistical practicality (and I can personally attest there is apparently commercial record-keeping software out there which doesn't even permit hyphens).

Mr. Maxibillion's, case however, like the "prisoner suing under false name" case noted earlier
looks to me more like plain old judicial pique: "That annoying felon is annoying us again, and wasting judicial time..." As noted, presumably in this modern day and age, the fact of his new name could be noted all over his existing criminal record, and in various databases; it would seem to make him EASIER to find than when he was "Scott Williams".
7.30.2008 2:16pm
Samuel Charles Speir could always go by "Chuck Speir" if he wants a "memorable" name.

I know an undergrad at my institution with the last name "Hittler (sic)." Poor guy.
7.30.2008 2:41pm
The tv series "NYPD Blue" featured as a recurring character a narcoleptic comedian named Vic Hitler, Jr.
That was Hill Street Blues.
And what Einstein would have the nerve to name his son Albert?
I don't know, he might grow up to be a famous movie director.
7.30.2008 2:45pm
I've had three different people (none of whom know eachother) swear to me that a friend of a friend worked at a hospital where some mother names her twins Orangejello and Lemonjello, so I understand if you're skeptical, but...

There was a girl in my school e-mail and phone directory named, I kid you not, Anita Dick. While I never met her, I had friends that were in classes with her. Seriously, Anita Dick. I mean, for a second, I though Bart Simpson had played a prank on our new dean, Moe Sizlac.
7.30.2008 2:52pm
JosephSlater (mail):
My father, not one prone to make up this sort of thing, once told me one of his students was named Penny Wise.
7.30.2008 3:03pm
CJColucci wrote at 7.30.2008 12:31pm:
I often wonder about perfectly normal names that have been ruined. ... I remember a case brought by one Abraham Lincoln against the United States -- a postal employment matter, if memory serves.
Abe Lincoln (1907-2000) and George Washington were both well known jazz trombonists. But Abe's full name was Abram, not Abraham.

I recall quite a few people whose names, as recorded on birth certificates, were entirely initials, eg: "J. D. Smith". I think this was a common practice in the south. The practice was at least common enough that some forgotten 1950s issue of Reader's Digest included a joke about a recruit whose name was eventually recorded in Army records as "Ronly Bonly Jones". Seems that in attempting to convince recruiters that his name consisted of initials only, he wrote "R.(only) B.(only) Jones".

That Readers Digest folklore is at least legally consistent with the 2006 case Darren Lloyd Bean v. Superior Court from which Prof. Volokh quotes in TFA:
We do not find a legal distinction between a period inside a word, a hyphen between words, an apostrophe in a word, and an exclamation point at the end of a word.
7.30.2008 3:05pm

I also understand the skepticism. Especially when I heard that some minority woman gave her baby a name that implies she (the mom) was stupid.

But I can personally vouch for one "Harry Dyck" whom I knew in grad school. Parents do stuff like that to kids. But why? I would have changed my name to Van Dyck the day I turned 18.

I also know of a colleague names Michael Hunt, who goes by "Mike." I'd go with Mickey, personally. Perhaps I'm shallow. If so, fine. But Hoosierwife and I went over possible nicknames, initials, and so forth extensively before naming our children.
7.30.2008 3:09pm
Houston Lawyer:
My wife claims to have gone to school with Orangejello and Lemonjello, pronounced very similarly.

I went to school with Cash Price, Candus Koehn and Rocky Rhodes. I used to work with Harry (Hal) Butt.

My wife's boss tells a good story about a woman he overheard calling her daughter Propecia. The funny part about that is that her boss didn't know that Propecia is a baldness drug.

My brother named his boy "Alias Simon", but he goes by Simon.
7.30.2008 3:11pm
pete (mail) (www):
Because no one else has quoted it:

Homer: Your honor? I'd like to sue the producers of "Police Cops" for twenty million dollars for improper use of my name.
Judge Snyder: Court finds in favor of "Police Cops". Next case.
Homer: Then I'd like to legally change my name.
Judge: What name would you prefer?
Homer: Any of these will be fine.
Judge: Hmm... Hercules Rockefeller, Rembrandt Q. Einstein, Handsome B. Wonderful? Huh, I'm going to give you the only name you spelt correctly. From this day forward, your name shall be .....
Lisa: Max Power?
Homer: Dynamic, isn't it?
Bart: I love it, Max.
Marge: You changed your name without consulting me?
Homer: That's the way Max Power is, Marge. Decisive, uncompromising, and rude!
Abe: Oh, wait a minute. The family name is my legacy to you. I got it from my father, and he got it from his father, and he traded a mule for it! And that mule went on to save spring break.
7.30.2008 3:16pm
Katl L (mail):
In a court my wife made the draft for a sentence on this case:a woman called Linda, in spanish , pretty , came criying . she wanted her name changed because she was ugly. Eery time she s answer with her name people , both men and women smiled.She came to ask for a name change , not allowed in the law but usually acepted by judges in cases of transexuality or offensive names. At the end the judge allowed the change
7.30.2008 3:25pm
Bleepless (mail):
Apparently, there was a guy in NYC named Adolf Hitler. He was Jewish. He refused to have his name changed because he had it first. Also, Winston Churchill once urged an American writer of the same name to change his. The American replied that he had it first and urged the Englishman to do it, instead. End of correspondence.
I know an pharmacist named Osama. It has been quite a while since he heard an original joke on the topic.
7.30.2008 3:27pm
Katl L (mail):
Cristobal Colon, Christoforo columbues in spanish, a shorstop for the Cubs in minor leagues 10 years ago
7.30.2008 3:28pm
I was an undergrad with a guy whose name was legally changed to Trout Fishing in America... He's referenced in the Wikipedia article on Richard Brautigan...

The best part was seeing his name on all official materials (course rosters and the like) as America, Trout Fishing In...
7.30.2008 3:32pm
Timothy Sandefur (mail) (www):

I had heard that the Churchills reached an agreement that Sir Winston would use his middle initial in all his writings--Winston S. Churchill. The American writer's novels to this day are routinely mistaken for the work of Sir Winston by owners of antique stores, but Sir Winston wrote only one novel, distinguishable by the "Winston S. Churchill."
7.30.2008 3:38pm
Mocha Java (mail):

"Dr. Herman I. Libshitz, retired radiologist, is no pushover.

Verizon is learning this the hard way.

This spring, the 69-year-old physician and his wife, Alison, were trying to upgrade the Internet service in their summer place in Rehoboth Beach, Del. They had dial-up. They wanted DSL.

When it was time to enter their user name and create an e-mail address, Verizon wouldn't let them complete the job.

This is how the doctor remembers it:

"We called their help line, and got a wonderful young man in the Philippines who told us:

" 'We can't install it because your name has - in it.' "
7.30.2008 3:41pm
Mocha Java (mail):

Link for above story.
7.30.2008 3:42pm
You're right, "Hill Street Blues" it was. I was visualizing the opening of the right show as I was typing, but somehow typed the wrong one.
7.30.2008 4:16pm
Stephen C. Carlson (www):
In recent news, a New Zealand judge allowed a minor named "Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii" to change her name.
7.30.2008 5:04pm
Sbard (mail):
I'm surprised no one has yet mention what is quite possibly the worst baby name of all time: Urhines Kendall Icy Eight Special K. Look it up on google. Apparently the first name is pronounced (Your Highness).
7.30.2008 5:29pm
I went to school with a girl named Isabelle Ringen. I have the yearbook to prove it.
7.30.2008 5:35pm
Folks in Tennessee will recall Byron Low Tax Looper, but less so for the name change than for murdering his opponent in a political race (literally).
7.30.2008 6:03pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
The Sylvas, well known in our county, named sons Hiho and Sterling.

As Bertie said to Jeeves, 'There's a lot of dirty work done at the font.'
7.30.2008 9:35pm
Bleepless (mail):
Mr. Sandefur: Thanks for the correction.
Remember the Sexual Freedom League? Its founder, Jeff Poland, had his name legally changed to Jefferson Fuck Poland. Ah, the liberal judiciary!
7.30.2008 9:52pm
Back in the '80s, the dean of student affairs at West Georgia College was named Richard Dangle. He was known to all of us students as Dean Dick Dangle.
7.30.2008 10:14pm
Harry Eagar wrote at 7.30.2008 8:35pm:
The Sylvas, well known in our county, named sons Hiho and Sterling.
Don't forget "The First Lady of Texas", Ima Hogg.
7.31.2008 12:17am
Wasn't there a would-be politician who wanted to increase his chances on election day by changing his name so that it was the same as his opponent?
7.31.2008 5:38pm
Syd (mail):
We've had perennial candidates in Oklahoma named Virginia Blue Jeans Jenner (presumably a nickname) and E. Z. Million.

Jesse James was State Treasurer of Texas 1941-77. His successor was Warren G. Harding.

Actually Candy Cotton and Jesse James don't sound that bad. I once had a (female) student named Robin Hood.
7.31.2008 7:27pm
Syd (mail):
And presumably few people here have had the experience of having their name become a popular name for the opposite sex. This does make it easier to remember the name of my grand-niece Sydney.
7.31.2008 7:29pm
This one's hart to top: clicky
7.31.2008 8:28pm
Spellcheck is my friend
Spellcheck is my friend
Spellcheck is my friend...
7.31.2008 8:29pm
naomi (mail) (www):
this reminds me of a story from the late 60s or early 70s. a woman sued the printers of a (the?) california telephone books because they refused to print her name in the book. her name was "magnolia thunderpussy". She cited that they had already printed the name "rumple foreskin" with no problem.
8.1.2008 12:54am
Jeffrey Quick (mail):
There's a local businessman who uses the name Dick A. Rose. Yes, not "Richard", and with the middle initial.

I also went to school with a trumpet major named Miles Davis. When he did his senior recital, my girlfriend got all excited: "Miles Davis is going to be at the Music School!" "Er, not that Miles Davis."
8.1.2008 10:04am
Michael Kochin (www):
1. When my late friend Bill Maddex went to Eugene South High School (Eugene OR) back in the early 80's, Dick Schmuck was employed as a coach. He and his wife used to send out Christmas cards "Merry Christmas from the Schmucks"

2. Absolutely Nobody ran as an independent candidate for Governor of Washington in 1992. As I recall, he had to go to court to get on the ballot.

3. Had a student quite a few years ago whose name was Vardit Dvash, or in English, Rose Honey.
8.3.2008 4:48pm