The baby girl had been given three perfectly normal names, but the fourth – “J” – saw her parents end up in court. The local registry office rejected the mono-letter moniker, the parents appealed, and Zurich’s cantonal administrative court has now backed the original decision.
Parents in Switzerland are basically free to pick whatever name they want for their children, “as long as it is not likely to damage the interests of the child”, as the federal registry office puts it.
“This includes particularly absurd or offensive forenames,” the Zurich court added, pointing out it had previously given the thumbs down to names such as Djonatan, the phonetic spelling of Jonathan.
In one relatively high-profile case, Swiss musician Christine Lauterburg was told she couldn’t call her daughter Lexikon because it was an object not a name.
“In this country, a single letter is simply not a forename,” the court said in its ruling on Tuesday. “This would be just as daft as creating a child’s name out of numbers.”
It said problems would arise not only because the single letter would frequently be misunderstood as an abbreviation, but also because it would be pronounced “yot” – as in German – not “Jay” as the parents intended.
“If parents want their kid to be called ‘Jay’, they should spell it out accordingly,” the court said.
The parents’ argument that it was only the fourth name didn’t sway the judges. The names might be in a particular order, they said, but not in an order of priority: each name, no matter its position, is permitted as a given name.
The parents explained they had wanted to honour a great-grandmother called Johanna and a great-grandfather called Josef. The court pointed out the couple could just name the child Jo.
“The choice of a single letter as a forename seems nothing more than a gimmick on the part of the parents,” the court concluded.
What do you think? Is J an acceptable name?
swissinfo.ch and agencies/ts