Germany bans very long names


BERLIN: Germany is renowned for fighting inflation, but the battle extends beyond money and into the realm of names. In a split decision on
Tuesday, the German Constitutional Court upheld a ban on married people combining already-hyphenated names, forbidding last names of three parts or more.

It was not the first time the court was forced to weigh in on the subject of names, which are regulated start to finish, fore to family, in Germany. This time, it was a Munich couple who decided to challenge the constitutionality of a 1993 rule limiting the names of married people to a single hyphen and two last names.

Frieda Rosemarie Thalheim, a Munich dentist, wanted to take the last name of her husband, Hans Peter Kunz-Hallstein, to become Frieda Rosemarie Thalheim-Kunz-Hallstein. The case brought Germany’s minister of justice before the court in Karlsruhe for oral arguments in February to defend the ban on what the Germans call “chain names.”

By a vote of five to three, the court refused to budge, ruling that ballooning names “would quickly lose the effectiveness of their identifying purpose,” and declined to overturn the law.

Germany takes a highly regimented approach to naming. Children’s names must be approved by local authorities, and there is a reference work, the International Handbook of Forenames, to guide them.

Germany’s economy minister found professional success despite bearing the lengthy name Karl-Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg, a name as aristocratic as it is long.

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