Venezuelan bill seeks to crack down on unusual names

Sunday, September 2, 2007

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuelans have a penchant for creative naming, with some parents giving their children unusual names like Hersony, Nohemar -- or even Superman.

But such odd names might be turned down by the civil registry if Venezuela approves a bill barring parents from giving their children "names that expose them to ridicule, are extravagant or difficult to pronounce," or that raise doubts about whether a child is a girl or a boy.

The National Electoral Council in the past week laid out that proposal in a draft bill circulated to city offices in Caracas.

If approved by the National Assembly, the bill could let authorities turn down names like some of the more unusual monikers currently on the voter rolls: Edigaith, Yorleth, Mileidy, Leomar and Superman.

When opponents of President Hugo Chavez last year sought to question the accuracy of the voter rolls, they noted that even "Superman" was listed. But electoral officials confirmed there are in fact two Venezuelans by that name registered to vote, and one of them was interviewed on state television.

Many of the unusual monikers in Venezuela come from unusual spellings of English names like Maikel or Jhonny. Other names are of uncertain origin, like Orlayny or Jesshy.

Venezuelan law already has a similar measure saying registry authorities should not accept names that would expose children to ridicule. But the issue has until now been left up to the discretion of individual bureaucrats.

Some Venezuelans think it makes sense to crack down a bit.

"I agree with putting limits on people who don't have a sense of the ridiculousness," said 58-year-old office worker Alfredo Blanco.

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