• CHANGE OF NAME: We were dismayed, intrigued and heartened by several recent developments involving the use of names and labels. The worst news came from Albania, where the government ordered all Albanian citizens who have "inappropriate names" to change them to conform to the nation's "political, ideological and moral standards." The largest segment of the population was Moslem before the Communist takeover in 1945, and most Albanian names are Islamic-sounding, although there are non-Albanian minorities in the country and many Albanians have Western-sounding names. Commenting on the decree, an Albanian official observed, "We have so many nice Albanian names such as Alban, Ilyr or Mimosa." The name changes were ordered at the same time the country changed its official name from People's Republic of Albania to People's Socialist Republic of Albania. (Had we been consulted, we would've voted for None of the Above.)
Closer to home, a Superior Court judge in Connecticut ruled that a former Connecticut resident who became a Moslem and moved to the Middle East could not obtain a legal change of his name from Bruce Alexander Brast to Abdullah Al-Badri Ben Alexander Brast. The judge stated that citizens should not have too many names or initials because "today's living…demands a name which conveniently may be used on standard forms and records…to avoid burdening governmental protection, regulating and welfare agencies."
More enlightened was the decision of the California Court of Appeal which held that a trial judge was wrong to refuse to consider a woman's petition for a dissolution of marriage simply because the petition was filed in the wife's maiden name, rather than the surname of her husband. The court held that the statutory change of name procedure did "not supplant the common law rule that a person may, without formal action, adopt any name he or she chooses so long as the name is not: adopted to defraud or intentionally confuse." (Are you listening, Mr. A.A.B.A. Brast?)
Also of interest is a holding of a federal judge in Washington, D.C. that the FBI does not have an exclusive right in the use of those three letters of the alphabet. The court ruled that a French clothing firm—Fabrication Brill International—may label its products in U.S. markets as being made by FBI, despite the FBI's objection that the use of the letters might lead customers to believe the goods had the endorsement of the bureau and that the use of the letters without the agency's approval was a criminal offense. Given the recent exposure of many nefarious activities involving the FBI, who would be surprised if the bureau wanted to change its name? But we found somewhat unconvincing the FBI's argument that the use of the letters by the French firm might "harass and force the bureau into ceasing its own use of the initials."
• MORE ON NAMES: Before leaving the topic of names, we'd like to mention that Democratic presidential hopeful Morris Udall has recently stopped calling himself a "liberal." Said Udall, "When a word takes on connotations you don't like, it's time to change the label." Udall indicated he still thinks of himself as a liberal, but prefers the label "progressive," because the word "'liberal' is associated with abortion, drugs, busing and big-spending wasteful government."
Not to be outdone, unrepentant Hubert Horatio Humphrey boasted to an assemblage of liberals in New York City in March, "I am not ashamed to tell you I am a New Dealer." Humphrey attacked other candidates "who are running against Washington" by contending "the 'less government' theme is just a code word for neglect, a code word for ignoring our cities.…Neglect of our cities is a new form of racism." Come now, Hubert, isn't it asinine to equate "neglect" with "racism"? On the contrary, if members of minority groups really understood how they are viciously ripped off by New Deal policies and "liberal"/"progressive"-style taxation, they'd surely like to get some of that "neglect" thrown their way.