The Facebook No-Fly List: Who Controls Names?

May 18th 2011

Last week, news outlets (including our friends at NameCandy) reported on the travails of Indiana attorney Mark Zuckerberg, who has the misfortune to share his name with the founder of Facebook. Attorney Zuckerberg has been around for decades longer than the Facebook whippersnapper, but now finds his right to his own name challenged.

Two years ago, he tried to create a Facebook account but was rejected because of his name. "I had to send them copies of my driver's license, birth certificate, and Indianapolis Bar Association license just to get them to believe that I exist and to allow me to set up my page," he reports. Despite jumping through all those hoops, last week he found his account shut down on grounds of "fraudulent identity."

As I thought about this story, it struck me that there's a bigger issue buried in it: the fact that Facebook treats certain names as special to begin with. Looking closer, it's clear that the company maintains a kind of "no-fly list" of names deemed suspicious. People who bear those names are required to produce legal documentation to defend their own identities.

Try to create a Facebook account under the name, say, Barack Obama and you'll get this error message:

On the face of it, this is a very reasonable quality-control measure. It's all too easy to picture Facebook becoming a junkyard of "Lady Gagas" and "Justin Biebers."

The company's rules state that "your full first and last name must be listed" and "impersonating anyone or anything is not permitted." Yet it's apparent that those rules are lightly enforced. Facebook is in fact crammed with blatantly fake users, from Ihaté Yew and Abcde Edcba to Detective-Sherlock Holmes to dozens of Anne Hathaways with profile pictures of that actress. And in that sea of identities real, satirical and fraudulent floats a small set of privileged names that Facebook safeguards.

The Facebook no-fly list isn't made public, but it's not hard to tell when a name is on it. Type a protected name like Tom Cruise into Facebook's people search and you'll find endless imposters using slight variations on the name -- Cruise Tom, Tom's Cruise, or creative punctuation like Tom Cruìse. I tried a bunch of high-profile names to try spot a pattern of which are and aren't protected, and came to the conclusion that there's not much pattern at all. Judge for yourself:

Facebook Says You May Be Named: But Not:  
Ben Stiller Adam Sandler  
Rupert Murdoch Warren Buffett  
Paul McCartney Mick Jagger  
Sandra Bullock Drew Barrymore  
Martin Scorcese Steven Spielberg  
Brad Paisley Carrie Underwood  
Jessica Alba Eva Longoria  
Carmelo Anthony LeBron James  
Mike Huckabee Mitt Romney  
Justin Bieber Miley Cyrus  

 

Whoa, hold on! So anybody can use the name Justin Bieber? Yep, they can and they do, in droves:

A few of Facebook's legion of Justin Biebers

The Bieber example alone rules out the possibility that Facebook protects names based on the likelihood of fakes. The commonness of the name in the broader population isn't the key either -- there are more Carrie Underwoods and Adam Sandlers out there than Brad Paisleys and Ben Stillers. Nor does category or influence of fame seem to be the issue. It's worth noting that rival tech executives don't all get the name protection that Facebook's founder does. Even while Facebook was shutting down the painstakingly verified account of a real Mark Zuckerberg, it continued to host dozens of users actively impersonating the leaders of companies like Microsoft and Google.

Historically, there are precedents for protected name classes. France, for instance, has longstanding laws barring common citizens from adopting surnames associated with the old aristocracy, thus preserving the aristocrats' hereditary privileged status. Today, we see private companies taking the role of name protectors, with celebrities playing the part of the aristocrats. Except the definition of the privileged class seems opaque, and even capricious.

Yes, there is a difference between a legal prohibition and difficulty getting a Facebook page. But the more powerful and ubiquitous any social media company gets, the more onerous the burden on name-challenged people becomes. Realistically, Facebook has broad power over personal identities, and it's deciding which names you are and aren't allowed to have. (Real people with unconventional names have run afoul of its name filters too.)

What happens in the long term, as new celebrities pop up overnight? Any of us could wake up tomorrow and find that, thanks to a reality tv star or basketball phenom, we suddenly have to defend our rights to our own names. I wonder what it would take to get Facebook to protect Laura Wattenberg for me?

Comments

1
May 18, 2011 12:30 PM

Cute post Laura. I wonder about the following as I am not on Facebook:(protected?)
Michael Jackson-guessing not
Donald Trump-guessing yes
Steven Tyler-guessing not
Simon Cowell-guessing yes
Jackie Kennedy-guessing not
Ronald Reagan-guessing yes

I think its the combination of names. Michael Jackson is a common name that a celebrity happens to have. Barack Obama is not so common.

2
May 18, 2011 1:08 PM

Zoerhenne, I probably should have addressed that explicitly in the column. (In fact, I'm going to go back and add it in!) It's definitely not just the commonness of the name driving the decision. E.g. there are many more Carrie Underwoods out there than Brad Paisleys.

3
By Dawn Star (not verified)
May 18, 2011 1:11 PM

My legal middle name is "Star" and FB won't let me use it. I have managed to get my whole name on there by squashing my first and last names into one field "DawnStar" but this is aggravating, like someone named Ruth Ann having to go by Ruthann. Both are fine names, but one is yours and one isn't, IYKWIM.

4
May 18, 2011 1:57 PM

Why some but not others? My guess would be lawyers. If someone complains, threatens legal whatever, it goes on the Special List. I think Ben Stiller is the kind of guy that'd get a kick out of it, while Sandler might well be a bit more protective.

(Incidentally, your own site just complained that the name I tried to comment with "belongs to a registered owner"--me. Also highly annoying, especially as it didn't ask if I wanted to login.)

5
By AngelaAiea (not verified)
May 18, 2011 2:19 PM

My friend Michelle Trachtenberg was kicked off for being a suspected fraud. The actress Michelle Trachtenberg is apparently big enough to warrant this move? Who knew? (My friend is, coincidentally, ALSO an actress and is older than her more famous name-twin).

6
May 18, 2011 2:43 PM

i heard FB has problems with Native American names too. I think maybe along the lines to the Ruthann/Ruth Ann issue mentioned above.

7
May 18, 2011 3:17 PM

I experienced this personally when I attempted to change my name on Facebook after my marriage. I now share a first and last name with a young actress, and it would NOT let me change it, even if I kept my maiden name in there. The most frustrating thing was that they clearly do not read the emails from the "contact us" link. I must have sent 10+ emails over a couple weeks (what can I say, I was getting frustrated), and I never received a single response about it.

Eventually I was able to change my name by hyphenating my maiden name and married name. The worst part about it all was that there was no way to actually speak with someone about it. So annoying.

8
May 18, 2011 4:32 PM

Weird-I do not regret for a minute NOT being on Facebook.

In another related note, why did so many of my ancestors name their children Mary? And why if you do choose to name after a relative can't you use a different middle name? I beg of the new parents today-please consider the genealogical aspects of what you name your children.

9
By Anna S (not verified)
May 18, 2011 5:35 PM

My guess would be that FB maintains a list of "forbidden" names, and that they'll add new names when someone makes a complaint. I can easily imagine those geeky FB-people having absolutely no clue who Justin Bieber is...

And BTW, just a small correction;

"Historically, there are precedents for protected name classes. Countries like France and Denmark, for instance, have longstanding laws barring common citizens from adopting surnames associated with the old aristocracy, thus preserving the aristocrats' hereditary privileged status."

The Danish name law (pre 2006) prohibited anybody from taking an existing surname they had no connection to. (Connection = one of your great-grandparents, grandparents or parents was born with this surname). The intent of the law may have been to protect names of the nobility, but at least the law wasn't phrased that way. The name law was modified in 2006 and now only "rare" surnames (<2000 people) are protected.

10
By Anna S (not verified)
May 18, 2011 5:36 PM

@zoerhenne

"In another related note, why did so many of my ancestors name their children Mary?"

Where they Catholic, by any chance?

11
May 18, 2011 5:42 PM

Fake profiles used to be a common thing in the early days of Facebook. I was friends with Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin, Orlando Bloom, etc. It was kind of the thing to do, so that these people would show up on your friends lists (I think pre Newsfeed we spent a lot more time checking out people's friends lists). They must have cracked down over the years as FB gained prominence

12
May 18, 2011 7:43 PM

Anna S, thank you -- you're right that I merged two countries' laws there, I'll fix it. (Denmark's unique take is not allowing personal names that resemble the name of a corporation!)

13
May 18, 2011 8:17 PM

Very interesting. Makes me wonder which one can't you be: Shia Labeouf or Robert Pattinson? I'm guessing Robert Pattinson, even though logically there are way fewer Shia Labeoufs.

@zoerhenne: Do you have Irish heritage? It was tradition for the daughters to be given family names as well as the sons. I'm a quarter Irish, there's a lot of Marys and Toms on that side of the family tree. Go to an Irish cemetary and you'll see a lot of the same exact names repeated. My grandfather and brother are both Thomas Joseph Surname. Booking family vacations is a pain in the butt for my mother.

14
By Katie (City) (not verified)
May 18, 2011 8:48 PM

I got talked into trying fb for a bit about two years ago (dropped it) and the first thing that really turned me off was waiting forever for them to approve my name. Turns out everyone in the family had the same problem, why? Because it's the same as a major city in a different country. I'd have thought if either last name (maiden or married) raised questions it'd have been my maiden name, I was so thrilled when I got married to push it back to another middle name.

I almost walked away right then, I really should have.

15
By CH (not verified)
May 18, 2011 9:47 PM

I was also disallowed after changing my name post-marriage, not for sharing a name with a celebrity, but for having too many capital letters. There are 5 capital letters in my married name and Facebook only allows 4.

16
By knp
May 18, 2011 11:08 PM

Oh, that reminds me to search facebook/google with the same name (first and last) for baby. :)

I also was betting that part of the seemingly random allowed and non-allowed fb names had something to do with requests (with or without a lawyer/publicist's help) to limit.

Ok, you ready for my girls list-- this is in flux. DH thought we were set for Vienna Colette, but I've been having second thoughts-- our list at the moment:

Vienna (yes, we know it is Austria's capitol- that culture center is part of what we love about it)
Daphne
Colette
Lydia (a come out of nowhere like-- which is funny because was a girl who kinda came between us at one point, 15 years ago)
Gretchen
Katia
Katja
Geneva
Milana
Tatiana (too frilly?)
Aurora (only as a middle--dh favorite overall)

Combos we like:
Colette Aurora
*Daphne Aurora
*Vienna Colette
Lydia Colette
Tatiana Belle (Tatibelle is a super cute nn-- too cute?)
Tatiana Eve
Tatiana Jade

At this point, we could use more names to consider for girls-- first names that go well with Aurora would be good, other middle names...

some nixed names: Talia, Saskia, Delia, Viola, Rania, Amaris, Renata, Persis, Evadne, Xanthe, Chiara, Soraya...

17
May 18, 2011 11:44 PM

Anna S and tinaconn-Thank you for your comments. I have no idea about the religion. None of my grandparents went to church on a regular basis that I am aware of but I don't know about their parents and so on back. The family I am referencing was German (from Austria/Hungary). I'm guessing that tradition existed with them too.

knp-I love all your girl names. It's going to make it hard to pick which is best. I will give you some ideas in the am after I sleep on it a bit. Could you also remind me of LN rhyme or such for flow please?

18
By alr (not verified)
May 19, 2011 12:08 AM

I wish I wasn't addicted to FB. This is making me wish I could wash my hands of the slippery-slope world of corporations playing God. Hmph.

knp: Daphne! Love. Love. Love it. :) I'd be iffy on using Lydia, given the history. You appear to like --a names, but if you want Aurora as the middle, I see you have a dilemma there. Here are some other ideas that don't end in "a":

Phoebe
Corinne
Suzette
Terese
Noemi
Yvette
Caprice

19
By knp
May 19, 2011 9:08 AM

ZR: Last name starts with Pl, rhymes with Russell. fn ln flow and fn mn flow (separately) is more important than fn mn ln flow to me (does that make sense?).

alr: thanks! I am also having a huge crush on Daphne right now. By putting it with dh's fave Aurora, I might get it. He was concerned about nicknames. (Which is funny from a Michael who does NOT go by Mike)
and I gave dh a bunch of names that do not end with -a, but he nixed almost all of them. I'll try those out on him! :) I like Phoebe, but not sure if he'll be able to get past the Friends character.

20
By RB
May 19, 2011 9:39 AM

knp - just a thought, but you might like to know this re: Vienna...

There is a town in southern Illinois called Vienna, pronounced Vye-anna. My grandmother is from Missouri and pronounces the Austrian capital the same way. Depending on where you live, you might have to deal with people mispronouncing the name (if that bothers you).

Don't remember if you're from US or not; I know we have a very international board here. Congrats and good luck picking a name!

21
May 19, 2011 10:27 AM

Great post! That is so weird that some names are acceptable while others are not. I agree with Lisa in TX that it may be due to lawyers. It's the only way it makes sense to me, anyway.

I need your help. A friend of a friend contacted me, requesting my help in naming the baby boy they're due with in a couple months. Here's the couple's criteria:
-She wants uncommon
-He doesn't want weird
-Cannot be in the top 50 and would prefer not to be in the top 100
-Their last name starts with N so they don't want it to end with and N
-The names currently under consideration:
Locke
Adler
Ryker
Vale (she like it, but he doesn't)
-If they had the baby today and HAD to pick a name he'd be Locke Adler but...they're not thrilled about it.

I have some ideas, but I'd love to hear what you think! Thanks!

22
May 19, 2011 10:48 AM

Wondering if you all saw this news story?
http://www.wgal.com/r/27922537/detail.html

knp- I like all of the names you have listed and the combos as well. I nixed Gretchen, Katia, and Katja imo they just don't work. alr had some great thoughts and I will second
Phoebe and Corinne. Here are some additonal combos:
Phoebe Theresa
Phoebe Cecelia
Phoebe Cassandra
Vienna Corrinne
Lydia Renee
Vienna Violet
Daphne Celeste
Daphne Olivia/Olympia/Octavia
Selena Genevieve
Tatiana Jolie
Aurora Celeste
Delphine Aurora

23
May 19, 2011 11:24 AM

Ugg stupid internet ate my message to you knp I'll have to repost later...

thought you all might want to see this news also:
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4070482,00.html

empathy-The other -er names seem to be the way to go such as:
Sawyer; Tucker; Asher; Bridger; Parker
what about names like Rex; Lance; Maddox; Phoenix
or combining those styles into names like Xavier; Braddox; Travis; Maverick; Burke; Reed; Max

24
May 19, 2011 11:35 AM

Okay, think I'm back to being able to post properly so knp here goes-
I like all your names except Katia, Katja, and Gretchen they just don't work for me for some reason. I do like alr's suggestion of Phoebe and Corrinne so here are some combos I like:
Phoebe Aurora
Phoebe Celeste/Colette/Corrinne
Vienna Violet
Daphne Olivia/Octavia/Olympia
Lydia Renee
Tatiana Jolie

I had more before but I can't remember them all now :(

25
By knp
May 19, 2011 11:40 AM

RB: thanks-- that was one I didn't know about, and since I am in southern Wisconsin... it's relatively nearby.

Empathy: Everyone's weird is different so I'll start a list that they can: Reid, Neil, Tate, Hugo, Wade, Jett, Beckett, Emmett, Rhett, Rhys*, Niles, Otis, Conrad, Tad, Clifford (I haven't check the popularity of all these...) What about ends in -o? Falco, Jericho, Cairo, Bo/Beau, Enzo
It seems like their uncommon is much more extreme than not in top 100-- Namepedia doesn't even recognize their faves.

26
May 19, 2011 12:26 PM

Empathy:

Locke is very tied to the philosopher for me. Not a bad thing at all -- I know a couple who just named their son after their favorite Roman scholar/writer, and I think it's darling... but I would want the parents to be aware that rather than being a general surnamey name, Locke comes across as an homage to the Enlightenment as much as Rousseau or Voltaire would. If they go with it they should make sure they've done the reading list so they can handle well-intentioned strangers joyously unburdening their liberal arts education in the grocery store when they meet a little Locke. :)

Adler I'm less fond of, both because in English it sounds like "one who addles" which is not the most flattering association (not that it's stopped Harper, mind!), but also because it's a Planetarium to me. If it's a family surname for them or it has special significance, I would happily overlook those associations, but I wouldn't pick it from all the rare surnames out there without some special connection.

Vale is very noun-y for me, and I immediately think of floodplains. Again, has the potential to be charming if it's a family name or if they are geologists, or if there's another special reason why it's meaningful to the couple, but not really something I'd advocate in general use because it's so very geography-centric to me.

I can't really advise since their style seems to be rare surnames and rare nouns-as-names... and that's a hard thing to generate a list of! I would advise scouring their family trees or their bookshelves for more unusual surnames in the same vein. While it's not generally my style of naming I really like the results when the name is chosen for a special significance other than just sound, and there's a lot of potential to do just that! I also can see how that would fulfill both of their criteria for unusual and for not-weird... because if they're names that people have heard of from history, then they're not weird, while simultaneously being very rare as a first name. So, I think they're on the right style of name for them, but the place to go looking is family surnames, historical figures they admire, literary figures they admire, etc.

27
May 19, 2011 3:51 PM

Empathy:

So, she wants uncommon, and he wants not weird. There are a lot of well-known but uncommon names that might interest them.

Uncommon names:
Oscar
Neil
Dexter
Roderick
Pierce
Turner
Douglas

Rare names:
Osric
Adric
Locksley
Reichert
Carver
Garrick
Eldred
Eldridge
Murdoch
Alder

Let us know if any of these are of interest.

28
By Michelle M. (not verified)
May 19, 2011 4:07 PM

Women named Kate Middleton have had their pages flagged and shut down by Facebook.

29
By EVie
May 19, 2011 4:14 PM

knp - I really like Daphne Aurora a lot. Of your other names, I also quite like Katia/Katja, Lydia and Gretchen—I think that Katia Gretchen, Lydia Gretchen or Gretchen Aurora all sound good. Your other names aren't really my style, so take my comments with a grain of salt. I'm afraid I don't care for city-names in general, and Vienna has been permanently stained for me by that horrible girl on the Bachelor (yes, I know most people don't know who she is, and she has already been forgotten by most of those that did... but my poor brain now cannot un-see what it saw. Folks, don't watch reality TV). Have you considered Ginevra or Genevieve as alternatives to Geneva? Tatiana is a classic, so I can't generally object to it, but it's a name that would seem discordant to me on someone without clear Eastern European or Italian roots, like Svetlana or Oksana or Giovanna (but maybe you do have these roots, in which case, cool).

Empathy - I actually quite like Vale—it's sleek and simple and has a poetic meaning. Ryker to me (and to anyone familiar with the New York area, and probably also to anyone who watches Law & Order) will always, always be a prison (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rikers_Island). Locke is all right, but I completely agree with lucubratrix that reading the philosopher should be a prerequisite to using the name. Adler I'm pretty indifferent toward, unless it's a family name. It actually has a nice meaning—Middle High German adelar, "eagle", from the compound term adel, "noble" + ar, "eagle". I think I would prefer it in the original form Adelar (which totally sounds like it could come from The Lord of the Rings or another fantasy novel—Sir Adelar, Slayer of Dragons?).

30
May 19, 2011 4:24 PM

@lucubratrix Locke was a writer and philosopher, yes, but it's also the name of a character on the TV show Lost. The general population with think TV, not essays.

31
May 19, 2011 6:08 PM

@knp - your girl style reads quite European to me, but I do like some of your picks.

My favourites would be Aurora, Gretchen and Lydia. I kind of like Daphne and Vienna but am not in love with them. I like the suggestion of Genevieve as an alternative to Vienna.

Other names I thought of for you:
Lisette
Gerogianna
Lucretia
Anastasia
Anneliese
Vivienne
Kasia
Ariadne

I do like the combo of Vienna Colette. Daphne Aurora is also a winner as is Gretchen Aurora.

@Empathy - Ryker is also Riker's Island to me although I believe it's also a sci-fi name? Vale I kind of like, as with Locke. They aren't really my style but I can get on board with them. I'll have to think about some other suggestions for your friend.

32
May 19, 2011 7:52 PM

@knp, while stuck in traffic this morning I also thought of:
Lucianna
Xylia
Soleil
Xenobia
Carys

33
By stensten (not verified)
May 19, 2011 7:56 PM

My married name happens to be the same as a certain actress starring in a certain series of movies about sparkly vampires, and Facebook will not allow me to change it. I have tried sending them legal documents several times and still nothing. I didn't realize how I was feeling about the idea of changing my name until I came across this stumbling block. I feel like I have multiple identities, because Facebook refuses to let me go by my new name.

The irony is, in trying to stop people from using fake names, they are in essence forcing me to use one.

34
May 19, 2011 9:18 PM

My husband wrote a preliminary list today! While I have not yet made one up for him to see, I did peek at his list. On it were two names I love: Alexander and Matthew (but the latter is the name of my youngest brother). Also on the list were Drake and Demetrius, neither of which I like. I'm still going to run my list by him, but it looks right now like we'll be going with a Russian tsar theme (our son is Peter, but at least our daughter isn't Katherine or we could have a passel of "greats!").

35
By Alli (not verified)
May 19, 2011 9:57 PM

Empathy:
Some ideas -
Cale
Linus
Ira
Ephraim
Lysander
Brant
Rylan
Clark
Vale
Cormac
Rand
Brickre

36
May 19, 2011 10:26 PM

knp-I don't know why this site was so wonky for me this am. I'm going to blame it on Chrome though and hope its gone away. I want to say that I don't care for Katia, Katja, or Gretchen. LOL I'm the complete opposite of EVie apparently. These are some of the combos I came up with.
Phoebe Aurora
Phoebe Celeste/Corinne/Colette
Daphne Olivia/Octavia/Olympia
Vienna Violet
Lydia Renee
Aurora Celeste
Aurora Delphine

I also like Chimu's suggestion of Soleil but having it in the mn spot presents some odd initials on occasion.

Elizabeth T-Congrats to your husband and a list! I love Alexander and hope you use it.
Alexander Joseph; Nicholas Alexander; Gregory Alexander would be wonderful to just throw a few combos at you.

37
May 19, 2011 11:15 PM

Thanks, Lisa - that's exactly why this board is helpful! Not having any channels on our tv has the fringe benefit of allowing me to avoid trying to un-see reality TV, as EVie said so eloquently, but also makes me not-so-useful as a pop culture name association reference.

I do think that a TV show association, no matter how dominant, is likely to fade with time, though, if the show has ended. By the time a little Locke grows to be an adult, I'd bet the primary association, if any, would be philosophy again. You might be right that perhaps to many people it would just be a generic surname. It really depends on the circles one travels in, though.

I also want to say that I love the idea of a Russian Czar theme.

38
By izzy
May 20, 2011 12:16 AM

@Empathy:
I do like Locke - cool without trying too hard. Adler sounds very surname-y to me. Ryker, is for me, immediately Riker's Island. (Too much Law and Order, anybody?) I would suggest:
Kael
Max
Ivo (I have a secret love for this name, idk why.)
Archer
Leo
To name a few.

@knp:
I will second the comment on the Bachelor's 'Vienna.' I never watched the show, but heard about it nonstop from friends. Other than that, I like what you already have.
To add to the fans of Daphne Aurora, I really love it. Also, I really like two of @Chimu's suggestions, Annelise and Ariadne. I like Aurora for a middle name for both, but I don't know if that s too "A" heavy for you.
Also, what about"
Violet Aurora
Clare Aurora (Anglicized Chiara if you really liked that)
Isabelle/Isobel Aurora
Genevieve is also a great suggestion.
Just a few ideas off the top of my head. Love all your names though, esp. Tatiana and Aurora!!

39
By EVie
May 20, 2011 2:04 AM

Re: Locke - I was a huge Lost fan, so I certainly understand how that could be a strong association. But considering that the character John Locke was intentionally named after the philosopher John Locke, I think the philosopher wins overall. BTW, lucubratrix, I love the image of the liberal arts grads at the grocery store! Hilarious. Incidentally, there was a girl in my European history class in high school named Sophie who had a brother named Emile—it came out when we discussed Rousseau that her parents had named them after the characters in Emile, or On Education.

I would probably recommend that anyone seriously considering a name that has a strong primary association from literature or history should familiarize themselves with that association before using the name. If you're thinking about Cordelia, at least skim through King Lear; if you're thinking about Guinevere or Arthur or Lancelot, brush up on your Arthurian legends. I would say it doesn't matter as much with very common names with a long history of use—if you're thinking of using George, for example, chances are you wouldn't be expected to know about ALL the King Georges as well as the story of St. George and Dragon and whatever other George associations there are out there. But in general, I think it's a plus to be able to discuss your child's name and its associations in an informed and intelligent way—even if the chances of someone asking are slim.

40
May 20, 2011 7:30 AM

Re: Ryker and sci-fi--that comes from William Riker, second in command (with Jean Luc Picard) of the Starship Enterprise. Star Trek: Next Gen, anyone?

I've mentioned this story before, but I'll repeat it because I thought it was hilarious. In the early 90s, when I was in my 20s and my youngest brothers were teenagers, we took a family vacation to Alaska. When we went to Valdez, all I could think about was the oil spill that had happened some five years earlier. My brother, on the other hand, was intensely excited because, as he put it, "Valdez is the future birthplace of William Riker!"

41
By shhh (not verified)
May 20, 2011 11:33 AM

So interesting about the "protected" French and Danish surnames. Can anyone point me to a list of those names?

42
By Anna S (not verified)
May 20, 2011 8:03 PM

@sssh,

I don't know if there's an actual list of "protected" Danish surnames, but you can check the numbers here: http://www.dst.dk/HomeUK/Statistics/Names/HowMany.aspx

The Danish name law states that you can't change your surname to something that a) you have no connection to, and b) a rare name that "belongs" to someone else (unless you get permission from every one of them). Surnames shared by more than 2000 people are fair game. (This is in a country with 5.5 mio people, BTW). And, like Laura mentioned upthread, companies can request that their name be protected too. I.e. you can't change your name to something like "Toyota", unless it's already a family surname.

43
By Beth the original (not verified)
May 21, 2011 12:05 AM

knp, I love the name Tatiana, but can't approve Tatibelle. It sounds like Taco Bell. Not that you asked.

I wonder what Facebook thinks of the couple who named their child Like. Did they sue for copyright infringement? I can hardly wait for the little sibs Unfriend and Status Update.

44
May 21, 2011 1:54 AM

And don't forget babies Comment and News Feed.

... I wonder if Facebook would try to take credit for the 8 boys named Tag in 2010.

45
By Guest-knp (not verified)
May 21, 2011 10:10 AM

Beth, that is a good point, thanks. I might not worry too much since it would be a nickname, but it I see the connection!

46
By Guest21 (not verified)
May 21, 2011 12:32 PM

@knp
Coming from a family with roots in the rural south, when I see the name Vienna, I instantly associate it with canned weiners with a "vye-ee-nuh" pronunciation:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vienna_sausage

Despite years away from the south and years of liberal arts education, including the cultural importance and beauty of the city of Vienna, canned weiners popped into my mind. Eck!! I don't want you to be blindsided by something so odd, so there it is.

47
By EVie
May 21, 2011 12:44 PM

re: canned wieners—hah! Actually, you're perfectly justified in thinking of wieners when you hear Vienna—the word "Wiener" literally means "Viennese" (hence the translation Vienna sausage—also the dish Wiener Schnitzel = Viennese Schnitzel... which I had for dinner last night, and it was delicious). I wonder if any schoolchildren would be sophisticated enough to make that a point of teasing? (i.e. "Haha, your name in German is Wiener!") My guess is not.

48
By alr (not verified)
May 21, 2011 4:45 PM

Ack. Guys, I'm still stuck stuck stuck on Naomi's middle name. I wanted to use a family name so badly, but there's a big difference between choosing a name for an unborn baby and choosing a name for a child who already has a known personality and smiling face. When I look at her photo, I can't see any of a somewhat fuddy-duddy family name options I have. I see spunk.

So gimmie some spunky girls names! :)

Only requirements are no ee endings (it has to follow Naomi) and no rah endings (our last name starts with a rah sound.) If you're up for an extra challenge, it sure would be perfect if there was a spunky girl's name out there that has a special meaning! I'd love to pick a name for more than just liking the sound of it.

49
May 21, 2011 4:52 PM

My husband's comment after reading him this article was that obviously, the people who banned the "other" Mark Zuckerberg were not the same people who had approved his join in the first place (seems like they should tag names like that in their database somehow so that, once a person gets approved by sending in legal documents, they don't get randomly banned by the next new set of employees/computer programs/whatever to come through).

I certainly think the list of protected names is due to the famous "owner" of that name (or their lawyers) and the threat of legal action. It certainly would explain the disparity between which celebrities' names are protected and which aren't.

50
By Yet Another Guest (not verified)
May 21, 2011 5:50 PM

@alr - Spunky is hard because I think it's so subjective. For example, I know that you like Violet and I think of that as a spunky name! And I know that some of my favourite spunky names, some people find downright ugly. But here is my list:

Violet
Harriet
Lois
Ada
Ivy*
Elsie*
Iris
Astrid
Josephine
Pippa
Daphne*
Margot
Agnes
Alice
Hazel
Poppy

*Those go against your non-ee endings, sorry!

(Many of these are on my short-list and will totally understand if they aren't your style!)