While here in Quebec the election is thankfully over, Belgium is having one of their own and a municipal candidate has caused quite a stir this week, but not for his unusually policies or anything he’s said. It’s his name:
Mr. Anus has had to refer to himself as Mr. Anu on Facebook to campaign on the social network and share his ideas. “Facebook just does not accept my name,” Anus said, adding that he can deal with being the subject of titters about his surname. Some have argued Anus should officially change his name for an easy life, but others maintain he should continue to wear his family name with pride.
He’s not alone: according to the Belgian civil registry [login required] there are 49 Anuses currently residing in the country – and all of them live in Wallonia. In many regions of Europe, offensive or “silly names” are not as rare as you’d think. The Netherlands having a similar problem due to the naming system they had for so many years.
A defining moment in history of recording names came on 18 August 1811 when Napoleon Bonaparte whose French army were occupying the Netherlands signed a decree establishing a registry of births, deaths and marriages. Families who until that time had got on just fine without a surname, were suddenly obliged to pick a surname. Annoyed by this and being ruled by a foreign power they started taking names such as “Born Naked” and other much ruder names, in protest.
After the French left, the new Dutch government thought that for tax reasons it would be best to keep the names. Leaving newly surnamed Mr and Mrs. Poop (etc) to be stuck with their names of revolt. While things have settled down a bit now, and many people have married or changed out of their names, Mr. Anus wouldn’t be the first interestingly named politician in the region as between 1994-2002 the Prime Minister of the Netherlands was Wim Kok.
Elsewhere the last name reform has been in progress due to modernization. In Turkey, many people only took on surnames in 1934 as part of “Turkicisation” reforms designed to create a unified nation state.
While the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was gifted his last name “father of the Turks” by parliament, not all of his countrymen took the opportunity to give themselves such noble monikers.
Citizens were formally required to adopt last names, and many chose names that now seem ridiculous, such as Testicle, Jackal and Naked.
However more than 105,000 people have applied to change their names after the Turkish government granted a one-off chance this year to make it easier for people to change misspelled and embarrassing names.
It couldn’t come at a better time than now though as we see modern technology filters are having a hard time dealing with some of these historically interesting naming practice. It is also unsettling that maybe this is the first step in humans having to start to change their own identity to fit into the digital world. It’s a shame Luc can’t use his real family name, who knows before this he may well have been proud to be an Anus!