The Portuguese gouvernment has a list with names. You’d say: the regime of Salazar is long gone, there are generations raised in freedom, and they can decide for themselves.

But no, not every name for a new-born is accepted by the registry office.

Sorry, just try to pull your leg there. It has nothing to do with a dictatorship, but still, for us people of the north, it is strange that you may not name your kids however you want.

Maybe sometimes this restriction is not such a bad thing – think about children called Butch, Diamond, Poppy-Rose or Chastidy …

In Portugal you have that list, and that’s it. No other possibilities. I was wondering already about the few babies I know. Young parents, but very traditional names: Inês, Solange, Alexandre and João.

Surprising that most people have problems with foreign names. Maybe not so surprising if someone is called Courtney or Thad, but my name is Ellen, not so difficult to pronounce.

Still, I got a lot of “Como?”, specially over the phone, so I translated it to Helena. We think it’s quite a posh name, but in portuguese it’s very normal.

Helena doesn’t have a problem anymore on the phone.

The names of regular visiting friends were translated. A woman called Cornelia hated that name, called herself Connie in her daily life, but in Portugal she had to go back to Cornelia because that is a normal name in portuguese. Also: she did not think it was amusing, but Connie means something like “bottom” in portuguese.

So she had to, because there were too many people laughing behind her back.

My ex, Wim, became “Guillerme”. It was too hard, apparently, to pronounce the W. It was more a “Vim” –   something we had to laugh behind his back about, because it is the name of a dutch cleaning product for the toilet.

The older generation can have beautiful names. There you are, waiting in line in a small store, and the old woman calls her man to take change with him:  “O, Anatólio, traz me troco!” That “O!” is part of the game, if you call someone, you have to say that first. Gumercindo is a nice one as well, or Aníbal,  Dulcinea or Anunciação. All people I know, otherwise I guess I did not believe it.

Cute, don’t you agree? You have to practise a bit, being a foreigner, not so easy to yell those spontaneously. Could be that my portuguese friends practised as well, because I get more and more Ellen instead of Helena. Something has changed since 15 years ago.

So, the portuguese can choose from their list. Maybe not a bad thing. I couldn’t imagine meeting a Flourish Amorim Carvalho or a Marvellous Fonseca da Silva.

Poor kid! What a life he or she would have at school!