updated 31 Dec 2010, 13:07
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Don't burden a child with a name like Hitler
by Melissa Heng

COULD you imagine what it's like to be named after Adolf Hitler, the German dictator best known for systematically murdering more than six million Jews?

Well, a little three-year-old boy in the United States found out last month just what it is like being Hitler's namesake.

The toddler, whose German- American father named him Adolf Hitler Campbell, was denied a birthday cake because the bakery refused to write the offensive name in cream.

Is a name just a name, or is there more to it? Should the boy feel obliged to identify with his name, especially as he was named after a historical figure?

The boy's parents might have hoped he would, for whatever reason, but I pity the child, to have to carry on his shoulders for the rest of his life all the emotions, images and tragedies associated with his name.

Every parent has a duty by his child - a duty to provide and safeguard. Adolf Hitler Campbell's parents have clearly defaulted on their duty. By so naming their child, they have marked him out for a lifetime of ridicule, to say the least.

Closer to home, Singapore parents, too, have been known to give their children "unique" names.

Let me give you an example:

A close friend of mine was named after a particular delicacy, because her mother had craved it more than other food during her pregnancy.

Today, 35 years on, she is still explaining to every new acquaintance why she had been so named.

Why do parents do such things? How do they decide on a name, anyway?

I posed that question to my parents once, and their answer was illuminating though, I would argue, misplaced on hindsight: Hope. They had hoped that my name would confer on me certain qualities, or characteristics, that will give me a smooth passage in life.

With that in mind, they chose for me a Chinese name that meant "quiet or calm" - a fact that always draws hoots of derisive laughter from those who know me, because I'm not quiet. Would that they had hoped for me castle-filled riches instead!

But, seriously, the thing for parents to remember is this: A name is a person's first possession.

It is not something that is lightly received, and should not be lightly given. By the time the child is old enough to change his name, the damage might have been done.

In Adolf Hitler Campbell's case, this would probably translate into growing up without friends. It's a shame that should not befall any innocent child - and every child is innocent.

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