Sorry, no more Zani, Ah Kow or Batumalai
By Sarban Singh (From New Sunday Times Online of July 30, 2006)
PUTRAJAYA: Osama is fine with the National Registration Department. But not Ah Kow, Karruppan or Zani.
The department, to spare the poor baby the blushes when he or she grows up, has come up with a list of "undesirable" names for Malays, Indians and Chinese
Among the no-no names for Malays are Zaniah (female adulterer) and Woti (sexual intercourse). Zani is a male adulterer.
While it is crass to name your son Ah Kow (dog), the department has also Ah Gong (unsound mind), Chai Too (pig), Kai Chai (chick) and Sum Seng (gangster) on its "undesirable list".
Besides Karruppan (black fellow), other Indian names which are quite "colourful" are in the undesirable list, like Sivappi and Vellayan (both meaning fair), and Amma-kannu (motherís eye).
NRD spokesperson Jainisah Mohd Noor said that it was not the department that came up with the list of unsuitable names. The list was given to the department by various authorities.
Among them were the Buddhist Missionary Society of Malaysia, the Malaysian Hindu Sangam and the Universiti Malaya Tamil Language Association.
"We are just helping to disseminate the information we have," said Jainisah.
Buddhist Missionary Society Malaysia president Ang Joo Hong said the "undesirable" names were popular with the Chinese community decades ago as some believed they could ward off evil spirits and bad luck.
"But the Chinese are more educated now and prefer auspicious names," he said.
Malaysian Hindu Sangam president Datuk A. Vaithilingam said many adults had approached the body for recommendation letters to have their names changed.
"They were unhappy with the names given by their parents, so they approached us for help."
Vaithilingam said the Sangam felt names like Batu Malai were no longer suitable as it meant stone hill (in reference to Batu Caves).
"We can only recommend it as parents still have the final say."
Jainisah said that if non-Muslim parents insisted on using a name in the undesirable list, they would have to make an appeal to the department.
In the case of Muslim babies, the parents will be referred to the Islamic Affairs Department if the name does not sound right.
"Again, we can only advise them, but if they are insistent even after knowing they are unsuitable, they may be allowed to use them."
The department has also received applications from adults who were uneasy with the names given to them by their parents.
Besides names of dictators like Adolf Hitler and Stalin, these adults had grown up being teased in school for being named after natural disasters, vehicles, household items and countries.
Jainisah said parents are not allowed to name their babies after animals, insects, fruits, vegetables or colours. It looks like we will not be having babies named after Amber Chia.
"Naming your baby Hitam or Putih is not allowed. Similarly, you canít call him Zero Zero Seven, 001 or K7.
"You will be surprised to know we have Malaysians named after Japanese car makes." Sorry, there will be no Honda Tan, or Suzuki Lim.
Malaysians are also not allowed to register initials with the names of their new born.
Examples are M.S. Krishnan, T.M.S. Mohamed Ghany and T.M. George.
Sorry, if you are not royalty, you cannot name your offspring with royal-sounding titles like Raja, Tengku or Tunku.
"These titles are only allowed for members of the royal family," Jainisah said.
You will also have to prove your lineage if you want your child to carry the prefix Ungku, Engku, Ku, Syed or Syarifah to your name.
Names with official titles such as Tun, Tan Sri or Datoí Wira Jaya, Haji, Nabi, Rasul, Guru, Ustaz and Hakim are also out.
Jainisah said the NRD allowed the use of surnames for both Muslims and non-Muslims. "If the mother or the informant cannot provide us the details of the father, then we allow the use of the surname from the motherís side."