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No appreciation for Token as kid's name: Swedish tax agency

David Landes · 20 Oct 2009, 13:44

Published: 20 Oct 2009 13:44 GMT+02:00

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Shortly after the child was born in June 2009, the mother requested the child’s given name of Keli Token be registered with the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket), which is responsible for maintaining Sweden’s national population database.

Much to the mother’s frustration, however, the agency rejected the request, arguing that the child’s chosen name failed to adhere to provisions laid out in Sweden’s naming laws.

According to the laws, names which can be considered offensive or can lead to discomfort for those who carry the name should not be approved.

The child’s mother then asked the county administrative court (Länsrätten) to overturn the agency’s ruling.

In making her case, she explained that Token was to be the child’s middle name and that the she was willing accept an alternate spelling of the name, such as To-Ken or To 'ken.

She explained further that Token is synonymous with gift in English, and that the name had ties to the birthplace of the child’s father.

The court agreed with the mother’s reasoning, ruling that the child be allowed to have the name Token. In its ruling, the court cites a case from 1987 in which the name Twilight was approved as a given name, despite the potential pronunciation difficulties that could occur for native Swedish speakers.

Moreover, the court argued that Token was neither offensive nor likely to cause discomfort to the child and should therefore be approved.

But the Tax Agency has decided to appeal the decision, and last week submitted a filing to the administrative court of appeal (Kammarrätten) asking it to review the case once again.

In the new filing, the agency explains that whether the name is the child’s first or middle name should have no bearing on whether or not it is approved. It also argues that the English definition of token in doesn’t matter; rather, it’s the word’s meaning in Swedish which needs to be considered.

Story continues below…

“The Tax Agency believes the given name Token, which, according to the Swedish Academy’s dictionary is synonymous with Stollen (‘fool) or Fåren (‘sheep’), can be seen to lead to discomfort and therefore is not appropriate as a given name,” writes the Tax Agency in its appeal.

The agency also takes issue the lower court’s invocation of the Twilight ruling, countering that, unlike Token, Twilight isn’t a word with “negative connotations”.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

14:14 October 20, 2009 by Rick Methven
What a waste of MY taxes
15:12 October 20, 2009 by geecee61
I have to agree with Skatteverket...burdening your child with a ridiculas name is banal...the UK should folow suite...Gwyneth Paltrow called her kid Apple!!!.. other fruit fans like Bob Geldof nameing one of his kids Peaches and a guy working in a cafe in Leather Lane,Holborn,London has the unfortunate title Santa along with Jackos kid being called Blanket...this may be the only time I will ever get into bed with Skatteverket...but there you have it..
15:25 October 20, 2009 by Gwrhyr
They should stop this ridiculous charade of campaigning to control what people name their children. People in old times could name their kids whatever they wanted and that's how modern names came about. We shouldn't deny modern people the right to come up with new names for their children.

Skatteverket is indeed wasting our skattepengar.
17:48 October 20, 2009 by BrittInSweden
"She explained further that Token is synonymous with gift in English"

Actually it is probably more synonymous with what you would call the only minority group representative in a film. Or something you spend in arcade game establishments.

They should be stepping in to stop stupid names being assigned to children though. As greecee61 mentions. Apple and Peaches etc are only going to cause emotional issues for the kid later.

I mean look at what happened in New Zealand - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6937327.stm

Poor kid
18:11 October 20, 2009 by "green Swede"
yeah kids can be cruel,why give them any ammunition,
18:27 October 20, 2009 by operareg
Why should the state control what you name your kids? This is a ridiculous waste of court time and money. Talk about the 'nanny state'!
18:59 October 20, 2009 by pathan
I think the Skatteverket is doing a good job by not plunging themselves into a future drama like they faced some weeks ago when a Black Swede challenged the 150 year old town name.

Moreover, kids are not toys to please their parents. The kid is going to be a mature person in the future and he will have to live with the Swedish meaning of Token rather than its English meaning. The mother can keep a dog for that purpose and please herself n her English buddy !
20:11 October 20, 2009 by Törnrosa
I think I once remeber reading about a poor girl who was named after the entire first team of (the then) Chelsea football squad (12 given names in total). I believe she sued her parents, though I can't remember the details.

I do think somebody has to step in when parents go beyond the realms of stupidity when naming their children. It isn't fair to the poor child when she has to write down (and remember) the 11 names of the Chelsea football team on any offical forms. Plus there is the issue of other kids finding it hilariously amusing and taking the pee out of the poor kid for all childhood.

It's bad enough to go through school with a name that rhymes with something amusing, let alone actually having a stupid name. I don't think it is wrong for parents to be creative and try new names or the such like, but when a child is to be named something clearly stupid like Token (I mean seriously, what?!), someone needs to look after the interests of the poor kid. "Oooh what's your middle name...?" "er...Token..." "Buwahahahhahaa"

I don't think "Fifi Trixiebelle, Heavenly Hirani Tigerlily, Peaches Honeyblossom Michelle Charlotte Angel Vanessa or Little Pixie Geldof would have been too unhappy if someone had stepped in and stopped those abominations. If people go beyond the realms of stupidity then someone does need to say hey, think about the poor kid here!
22:05 October 20, 2009 by bigboy
My Swdish wife says 'token' means 'the nutter' in swedish, and the child will be living in Sweden so the name should not be allowed.

I am british and think it is an insulting name. It is not à gift, the dictionary states " a thing that you give which expresses your feelings or intentions, although it might have little practical effect" - hardly an affectionate name for à child.
22:30 October 20, 2009 by Gwrhyr
Ultimately, though, I don't think it matters what you, "Törnrosa" or "Bigboy" think of a specific name that someone else wants to use for their child. Where do we draw the line? For instance I don't think Apple or Peaches are strange names at all. Rose is a traditional name and it's a plant. The phrase "You're the apple of my eye" shows that apple has positive connotations. Same for "Everything is peachy (fine)" for the name Peaches.

And kids aren't all as evil as you guys seem to remember. Sure, some can be. But the kids that are mean will find something to be mean about no matter what, and dealing with that is part of life and growing up for everyone, both made-fun-of kids and the ones that make fun of others (although usually we all do both at some point in our childhoods or even adult lives).

I think the limit should be drawn at the obscene. Nobody should be named Vagina or Clitoris, for instance. But as for Token, it's her middle name and she might actually love the special meaning that her parents meant for her.
00:10 October 21, 2009 by Kaethar
Token means "the crazy one" in Swedish, and should of course not be allowed no matter what it means in English.

And to me token is not a positive name either. When I hear token I think of a fruit basket given to your coworker as a token of your appreciation or of a token black person in a TV show.

It's apparent that these people are not native Swedish speakers and I'm guessing they're not native English speakers either. If they want a similarly crazy name why not go for Award, Tribute or Legacy? Or Present if they really want to get literal. These names would be allowed, some maybe with some convincing. Naming your child a nutter won't be allowed though.
01:30 October 21, 2009 by I Love it when ...
wow ... only in sweden. people should be allowed to name their kids whatever they want.
02:04 October 21, 2009 by DanishAmerican
It seems so bizarre and invasive that a government agency can actually dictate what parents can name their children...Granted there are a lot of names that might not appeal to me or sound rather stupid (Hollywood stars seem to do a lot of that) but that is their right. And anyway how often does it happen? If the child doesn't like the name they can always change it. But to have the government approving names is extremely authoritarian...
04:12 October 21, 2009 by kenny8076
I think people should mind there business at let people name their child what they want. I am skinny and my name is kenny, im sure you can figure out as a kid growing up i was called SkinnyKenny!! cry me a river, should we not name kids Kenny? FatPat....... kids will make fun of other kids no matter what, its called LIFE and you learn to cope with the people around you. why doesnt the state spend more time focusing on the fact that sweden has the most rapes in europe, or build more housing for people, create jobs.......something other than what im going to name my child
09:23 October 21, 2009 by Kaethar
@I Love it when ...: Naming laws are hardly exclusive to Sweden. They exist from Germany to Poland to Morocco to Mexico to New Zealand. Many nations have such laws, in fact. Two notable exceptions are the US of A and U of K. And even in the land of the free there was an uproar over Adolf Hitler and a scurry to convict the parents of any crime they could find. :)

@kenny8076: Is Kenny supposed to rhyme with skinny? And I don't believe the tax authorities handle cases of rape or housing and job issues. But I realise this is a common slur tactic. :)
11:43 October 21, 2009 by Åskar
I just wonder what a friend's daughter really thinks about the name her mother fought the authorities for over three years to get accepted: "Pixie". The rationale is that she was totally unexpected and started as a growth in her mother's tummy, an "evil pixie". I know that I would not like to have a name with that story behind it.
11:49 October 21, 2009 by voiceofreason
What about "Clay", "Woods", "Bull" etc. Would Skatteverket rule against these names too?

We live in a crazy world, its surprising to me that that some government official of no moral-standing can decide what name one can chose for a child.
12:33 October 21, 2009 by The Traveller Returns
I think it's amazing any of the public should even get to know about this, the public get involved with anything.

You all say Apple and Peach but in the old days, people were called Dick and Fanny on a regular basis.

You should go to Thailand, people are called, Pepsi, Phone, Pan Rocky etc...

People should be able to do what they like. Their choice, not the nosey general public!!!
12:42 October 21, 2009 by karex
Reminiscent of a Big Brother state. These naming episodes invariably conjure up unsettling images from "The Matrix" and "Brazil" in my mind...

Not even Stalin decided what people were allowed to name their children, did he?

The name is not one of the best I must admit - but that is my opinion just like everyone else has one. Bottom line the child is not mine. If the child dislikes her name she can always have ti changed legally.
16:27 October 21, 2009 by Rick Methven
If you wanted to get on in the USSR during Stalins time, it was prudent to have Joseph as one of a male childs names. Most had at least 3 names so you could loose it
17:09 October 21, 2009 by Elvine
"Fåren" (sheep"´) ?! This must be a mistake in translation, it's probably "Fånen" (it means something like "the village idiot", "the nutter", "the fool"). If someone in englishspeaking country wants to name their kid "The fool" och "The idiot" I don't think i would be legal there eighter .
01:49 October 22, 2009 by I Love it when ...
@ Kaethar

hmmm pretty interesting ... thanks for the info.

Us of A ... thats so cutee :)
15:41 October 22, 2009 by Monty Clift
Elvine: there are no laws governing names in English speaking countries and in places like the US there are many non Egnlish person with unusual names. Some of these names sound pretty funny in English like Phuckit (Vietnam). Of course a person can easily change their given name if they choose so it's not like they have it for life. And I find nothing wrong with names like Apple or Peaches because in the past names like Violet, Daisy,Rose and other flower names were common.And btw, Jackson's kid was not named Blanket, that was just a kid nickname.
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