What’s in a name?

A while back I remember reading about some troubles for a family who had decided to name two of their children, Adolf Hitler and Aryan Nation.  It turns out now that all three of Heath and Deborah Campbell’s children have been removed from their custody by a New Jersey court.  According to Heath Campbell, “ [T]he judge and DYFS told us that there was no evidence of abuse and that it was  the names. They were taken over the children’s names.”

I have not read anything as of yet that would cause me to believe the Campbells are not loving parents.  But could we really say there is not a significant risk of future emotional and psychological harm that the children will encounter as they progress through life?  It would be nice to believe that they will judged by their character and not because of their names.  Moreover, should we expect a company or business of any reputation to be comfortable with Adolf Hitler or Aryan Nation representing them?  I don’t think so.  Much like people with face and neck tattoos, these kids (unless they change their names) have only so high they can go in the professional world with monikers reminiscent of the holocaust.

Campbell made the point, “This is America, they say it’s free, you have the right to name your child  whatever you want to name your child, no matter what.”  I can say I agree with the sentiment, but not necessarily the application of the point.  In a free society, we must act with responsibility.  I’m not sure I can remember a more irresponsible expression of freedom.


  1. I’d rather live with the down side of parents having that freedom than the down side of the State having that authority. We must choose our shit pile carefully. No system is perfect.

    • Sabio, I get it. It is frustrating more than anything. It just seems as though the emotional and sociological damage to the kids through their relationship developing years they will be stuck with those names and it could potentially be pretty harmful. But you’re right, what are you going to do?

  2. Terrance H. says:

    I agree with Sabio. I might be a liberal, but I’m not for a ridiculously powerful and nosey government. And the children can change their names when they’re 18 and any judge would clearly approve it. So, their professional exsistence doesn’t have to be meager. But if the stock is any indication of intelligence, they don’t have much of a professionals future anyway.

    • Yeah T, like I said, I think it is unfortunate. But remember those kids have to go through their entire socio-developmental stages, elementary, middle, and high school with those names. Is there a sense of emotional psychological abuse here? They cannot change it until 18, and I think its safe to say that the parents wont do it, think of the potential emotional harm that would be caused, does that not count for anything? After all, we would probably be more sympathetic if the kids were named idiot, retard, useless, or ‘unwanted’, would we not?

  3. John, I think your last statement sums up the problem. We are too easy to look the other way for stupid names like “Adolf Hitler,” but don’t dare name your kid “Retard.” Sorry to disagree here, but I think there should be a law against abusive names for children, which is exactly the case here. It is a clear case of child abuse, and we have laws against child abuse. If the name is abusive, then apply the child abuse laws.

    • I know it sounds like I’m talking out both sides of my mouth here, but I agree it is abusive to give children names like that. It opens the door for 18 years of public torment and humiliation, unless of course the kids embrace their Nazi namesakes and adopt views consistent with their parents. In which case that itself is abusive too.

  4. I remember that girl, she claimed to have fallen asleep while the tattoo guy did 54 stars on her face.

    I have 2 tattoos and while I didn’t find the experience particularly painful, you can’t not notice you are being tattoo’d.

    I also remember this family, it wasn’t just the names, the parents are neo-Nazis, so they are not preparing their children to be in the world at all, not just saddling them with challenging names.

    that said, people get to beleive what they want and teach it to their kids

    we had a case in canada around the same time, the parents had divorced, and the daughter drew a swastika on her arm at school, as well as saying a lot of racist things.

    She was taken away too, because neither parent was deemed fit to raise a child in a way that prepared them to interact with the world at large.

    • Ntrygg
      I picked the photo simply because I made reference to face tattoos and didnt want to put some grizzly convict there, but yeah, I remember the story. She later admitted she made up falling asleep because she knew her parents were going to be PO’d.

      These parents are obviously not ready to raise children to function in a society.

      Lol, I did not hear about that story! But at least that’s a good natured thing and doesn’t carry the image of 6 million murdered Jews. I think a kid could actually make some money off a name like that. I think it’s pretty cute.

  5. remember that story about the judge who refused the parents who wanted to name their kid:

    Tulla Does the Hula in Hawaii

  6. Does the parents’ right to name their kids stupid names subsume my right to call them by different monikers? By extension do I have to refer to Artest at Metta World Peace, or Chad Johnson as Ochocinco? Cassius Clay as Muhammad Ali, Lew Alcindor as Kareem Abdul Jabar?

  7. Interresting question of liberty. Here in Finland we have an actual law against stoopid names and a government official who monitors that. Generally it is seen as a responsible thing from the side of the society to interfere, when people are irresponsible about name giving to their own offspring. If I have understood correctly this office has very little work and the usual case is when people are trying to give their child a name of the opposite sex. Though, there are several Finnish names that are both male and female names.

    I have to agree with Random Ntrygg that the mear fact that the parents are neo-nazies shows how poorly they are fitted to be parents at all. On the other hand, I saw this interview of the son of the most known post war Finnish neo-nazi, and it was obvious his fathers madness had affected him, but he even so he gave the impression of being no more mad himself than anyone who has been raised up in a family with an adult who has psychological problems.

    Many people (not just neo-nazies) have racistic or otherwise unhealthy ideals. Who would rise all their children, if they were abducted from the families? One has to hope those kids come to their senses when they grow up and start to make up their own mind.

    • Rautakyy

      Thanks for the note on the name law, I knew one of those countries (Norway, Sweeden, or Finland) had a law like that where they monitored names. It is a difficult line to walk. Liberty on one hand and common sense on the other when that liberty might create problems for someone else, even though they are under the dominion of the parent.

  8. Yes, we have such a law and it is in action. The general populace does not see it as an issue of liberty. An attempt to violate that law is just the same as an attempt against any other law. It is generally seen that the parents have no right to punish their children with idiotic names.

    • What do you think of that, because that makes sense to me. If parents are supposed to be looking out for the best interest of their children, how can we ignore the fact that their name becomes part of who the person is. I amJohn.

  9. Like you John Barron Jr, I am a bit torn about this issue. I agree with what you say about our given names forming our identity. It might be my cultural heritage, that I think the society and government has the responsibility to protect its citizens. Even the newborn ones and even from their parents. It also fits my understanding of ethics that the harm caused to the parents by depriving them the right to give their child what ever name is less than the harm to the child by the most ludicruous names the parents may come up with. The parents can still choose the name of their child, just as long as it is not something obviously harmfull to the child.

  10. I think that choosing THOSE names is child abuse. I have no problem with WEIRD names, but I *do* have a problem with EVIL ones. Some weaboo naming their kid Naruto is weird and stupid, but not evil; I can’t think of any way that naming a kid after Hitler could not be evil.

    • @Fishy

      Yeah, I am torn back and forth on this. I really think it is wrong — to the point of prevention — to name children names like Adolf Hitler. But the libertarian in me says let parents be parents, and until we require an aptitude test for reproduction, we’re simply out of luck.

      I just wish people were so stupid as to make people like me have to debate nonsense like this.

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