Not long into each year, New Zealanders are treated to an official list of baby names Government officials have deemed inappropriate over the past 12 months.

It's a schadenfreude-inspiring parade of spelling errors and questionable choices and this year was no different.

But while the Department of Internal Affair's rules are designed to weed out names that are too long or potentially offensive, it's another caveat that seems to be tripping parents up: names that resemble official ranks and titles.

But does the restriction make sense?


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Of the 42 names rejected this year – 61,000 were registered in total – seven alone were the name Royal in all its colourful spellings, including Royale and the even-more-surprising Royall.

In second place was King with six offences, including Kyng. Other offenders include Justice (because it's the title of a High Court judge) along with Saint, Prince and Princess.

Public law expert Graeme Edgeler says while rules preventing names that could offend make sense, the reasoning behind the ban on title-like names is fixing a problem that doesn't really exist.

After all, who are Royal or King confusing?

"I really don't accept that if someone is called Prince people will think they're a prince. Especially if Prince is spelled with two Cs," Edgeler says.

"If you call them Major are people really going to think some four-year-old is in the army?"

He's calling for the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Amendment Bill – which lays out the rules – to be changed.


"A lot of the names on that list I would never consider naming a kid, particularly the misspellings of things," he says.

"But I just can't see why we would ban other people from doing it. Why would we have a rule about it?"

DIA's Registrar-General Jeff Montgomery says the department can't change the law or say whether it makes sense – that's for Parliament - but he has an explanation of why it might exist.

"The reason for the law is partly for confusion: to ensure those who do have official titles are able to use them and those who don't aren't able to use them," Montgomery says.

"Also, it avoids embarrassing situation such as a person appearing in court and having the name judge. It could be problematic in that setting.

"There's a risk that there's confusion not only for the five-year-old but the 20-year-old in the future."

And he says the restriction isn't nearly as cumbersome as it may appear.

The DIA is fine with title names as surnames and sometimes as middle names if there's no risk of confusion. Families also get a chance to explain if a name is important.

"If they have a good reason it'll be approved. For example, if it's been in the family for many, many years it might be approved. It might not," Montgomery says.

He points out the rule also covers the way names are said, thus including creative spelling.

But, with 18,000 unique name also accepted last year, he says it's only a fraction of families that run into problems.

"I can't comment on whether the problem exists, that's one for the politicians."

Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin says it's not even on the radar.

"I haven't heard from any parents about this and I'm not aware of it being an issue for the Department or Registrar-General," she says.

"Any legislative change requires time and resource and there are other priorities for me and the department."

The National Party also declined to comment, suggesting we're unlikely to see a flood of Royals, Kings or Princesses any time soon.