What's Your Christian Name?

by @edent | # | 4 comments | Read ~548 times.

I have a childhood memory of my father having a blazing row with a census-taker. It must have been around the 1991 census, the person collecting (or perhaps dropping off) the forms was determined to find out my father's name.

"But you must have a Christian name!" He cried.

"And I tell you that I don't!" Said my father, stubbornly.

"Of course you do, everyone does! You have to tell me for the census."

"No - I do not have a Christian name," responded Dad.

"How?! How is that possible!?"

"Because I'm not a Christian!" My father was triumphant.

"Oh...! Oh. Well, you know what I mean. Your first name then."

It seems hard to believe now, but growing up in the 1980s & 90s, the Christian religion seemed like quite a big deal. Everything stopped on a Sunday - hardly any shops open, religious programmes on TV, and half my friends stuck in a Madrasa.

Without me ever really noticing it, the UK has become increasingly progressive and tolerant. I remember having to write my "Christian name" on my school books but, in my adult life, I honestly don't think I've encountered the phrase. It's as archaic as the term "Coloured" or "Spastic" - words which were once part of everyday parlance which have fallen out of favour.

Well, until yesterday. The person who asked for my Christian name was mortified when I pointed out that, as I hadn't been baptised, I wasn't able to provide him with one. We both laughed at the absurdity of the situation - the way our brains regurgitate outdated notions at random. I still talk about "hanging up" the telephone, even though it stays firmly in my hand. A memetic skeuomorph which is hard to dislodge from the common tongue.

For people who are (for want of a better word) privileged, the notion of micro-aggressions seems almost hopelessly childish. A throwaway comment which upsets you that much? Man up!

But, for those of us outside the default, it can be a sudden jolt to the system. An otherwise pleasant day ruined by an unwelcome reminder that society doesn't see you as normal.

A quick look through Government websites shows an interesting array of forms which are still asking citizens for their "Christian names".

Of course, it's not just the state - it's also civic society. Everything from Golf Clubs, employment forms, and recreational societies.

I know some people who think this is just Politeness Gone Mad - but it hurts. It tells you that some parts of the country simply won't accept you for who you are. It's sad, irritating, and - thankfully - getting better.

It's not a big thing, true. Just a queer little throwback from people who haven't quite caught up with the march of progress.

4 thoughts on “What's Your Christian Name?

  1. Christina says:

    When we got married, the registry office form (which included lots of references and information on same sex marriage) asked for the name of the bride and name of the groom. I asked them when they would be getting it updated and they said it was too expensive. I offered to pay for the re-print as I felt it was important if people finally had that opportunity after years of campaigning and then were reminded that they still didn't 'fit'. The council declined my offer.

    1. Terence Eden says:

      That's terrible! Wonder if they've got round to changing it yet?

  2. I thought the accepted heading was "Forenames" and had been for years. A slightly different example of Christianity getting everywhere was the incident of an architect putting a crucifix on the plans of a multi faith centre being built at Kent University twenty odd years ago. The architect could not understand how this might have offended non-Christian groups involved in passing the plans.

  3. Jack says:

    I thought the first example had corrected their form in the last few months, but no - they use 'Forename' on page 1 and 'Christian name' later on!

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