Be Amazing: Change Your Name

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Whether you're looking to start your own religion, swallow a sword, quit smoking, find Atlantis, buy the Moon, sink a battleship, perform your own surgeries, or become a ninja, our new book Be Amazing covers all the essential life skills! This week, we'll be excerpting a few lessons from the book.

So you've finally decided that you no longer want to go through life burdened by the horrible name your parents gave you. Great! But you're still going to have to explain that decision to dear old Mom and Dad. And, unless you really like awkward family holidays, it's best you have an excuse other than, "You guys suck!" In the interest of your continued familial bliss, we provide the following controversy-free reasons for your moniker switch:

BECAUSE THE GOVERNMENT'S MAKING YOU

Naming your baby Brooklynn, America, or Lindsee might be acceptable (if mockable) in the good ol' U.S. of A., but don't try a stunt like that in Denmark. Of all the European laws regulating baby names, Denmark's are the strictest. Danish parents must choose from a state-approved list of 7,000 names, which seems like a lot, until you fall in love with a name that isn't on there. And bucking the system means months of slogging through a bureaucratic process to get your chosen moniker individually approved by the Names Investigation Department and the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs. Each year, the organizations reject 15 to 20 percent of the names they review—all in the, well, "name" of protecting the baby's dignity.

BECAUSE YOU AREN'T AS RELIGIOUS AS YOUR PARENTS

Forget the hippies, the award for #1 crazy-baby-name subculture absolutely has to go to the Puritans. Well known for burning eccentric neighbors, forcing adulterers to wear colorful letterman jackets, and condemning the concept of "fun" in general, Puritan culture was basically a big ball of repressed wackiness looking for an outlet. Thus, did little Silence, Humiliation, and Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin (i.e. the writing on the wall from the Book of Daniel) pay the price for their parents' self-flagellation. Some, however, later rebelled. Sometime before 1660, a preacher's son-turned-doctor changed his name from Hath Christ Not Died For Thee Thou Wouldst Be Damned Barebone to the more sensible Nicholas Barbon.

FOR THE SAKE OF A LITTLE PUBLICITY

Between 1965 and 1979, San Francisco painting contractor Bill Holland changed his name no fewer than three times. But Holland's odyssey wasn't part of some New Age attempt to find himself. Rather, according to the brief write-up Holland warranted inTimemagazine, his capricious name-hopping was a purely Capitalist scheme. In order to become easily identifiable as the "last name in the phone book" Holland took on the professional pseudonym of Zachary Zzzra. Over the next 15 years, he had to periodically add some "z's" as first a "Zelda Zzzwramp" and then a "Vladimir Zzzzzzabokov" moved to town. By 1979, Holland's painting contract business could be found under the unwieldy moniker of Zachary Zzzzzzzzzra.

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March 11, 2009 - 8:00am
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