The Register notes that the Identity and Passport Service refused to issue a passport to a woman who had changed her name to “Ms Pudsey Bear” (in aid of the BBC’s Children in Need charity), despite the fact that her bank and even DVLA had done so. The reason allegedly cited by IPS is “It is deemed to be a frivolous change of name, which would bring IPS into disrepute. It could also pose problems for you at border control in some countries.”
Leaving aside the obvious gag here, there’s a more serious issue for anyone naming a child or changing their own name. The Identity and Passport Service is governed by the Registrar General, who is responsible for official records of births, deaths, marriages etc. If his department refuses to accept a name then surely he has seniority over all other registrations, and therefore those other departments should also reject the name? This is going to create an anomalous situation where individuals cannot have the name of their choice simply because a government official arbitrarily doesn’t like it. That couldn’t be allowed to happen either, so the next logical step would have to be a list of approved names.
A New Zealand court threw out a girl’s name on the grounds that it was patently ridiculous, and the Chinese government is said to be drawing up a list of approved names. Come to think of it, I know more dogs called Toby than I do people with that name – should I be worried about getting my application rejected next time I try to renew my passport?