The father of a boy whose name the Department of Internal Affairs is reluctant to register says if he was in the public eye no one would question his choice.

Pat Wheaton has been told he and his wife, Sheena, cannot call the boy 4Real.

"The name has meaning for us, so why not?" he told the Herald.

"If it was George Bush's child, or the Dalai Lama's, no one would care what it was called."

The Wheatons said they decided on the name after seeing an ultrasound scan and realising the baby was "for real".

They said they chose the spelling "4Real" because it was the clearest and simplest way of writing it down.

There was a big response to the story on the Herald website yesterday.

Many people questioned the wisdom of naming a child something so unusual, saying he would certainly be teased.

Treena of Wellington wrote: "Have this child's parents not read the numerous reports about how having an unusual name as a child can have adverse affects on their self-esteem growing up?

"Duncan 'Zowie' Bowie, Rolan Bolan and Frank Zappa's children have all apparently at some time expressed the pain of growing up with an unusual name.

"The parents should think about the child, not themselves."

Others suggested rewriting the name without the initial digit.

"I like the suggestion of changing it to 'Foreal' and maybe make that the middle name," said Genevieve of Auckland.

"Give him a more conventional first name then you can call him what you want at home but he has the option when he grows up of using his first name if he prefers."

Asked to respond to some of the comments, Mr Wheaton was adamant he and his wife would fight to name their 3-week-old son as they saw fit.

He said those who expressed fears that the child would be bullied were looking at the situation from the point of view of an adult.

"Children don't care about that sort of stuff. My nephews are 4 and 6 and they don't have a problem with it - they just know [4Real]'s name. It's more the older generation that have a problem with it."

He and his wife felt any difficulties 4Real encountered would not occur until he was older - when he would be well equipped to deal with them.

A statement released to the Herald by the Department of Internal Affairs yesterday said the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages had not rejected the name "4Real" at this stage and discussions with the Wheatons were continuing.

The statement said unusual applications were considered on a case-by-case basis.

What New Zealand law says

Under the Births, Deaths, and Marriages Registration Act 1995, children born in New Zealand must be registered within two months of the birth.

The law forbids names that resemble an official title or rank, names that are unreasonably long and names that may cause offence to a reasonable person. It is also advised that parents avoid names which would cause their child to be teased or made fun of.

In considering an applicant's request, the Registrar-General weighs the applicant's personal reasons for having the name included, against factors such as whether the name is likely to cause confusion in New Zealand or overseas.

Other names making headlines

A UK couple realised their howler - after naming their baby son Drew Peacock, the Sun newspaper reported this week.

The two-month-old's father, Russell, said he only realised the name's unfortunate connotations when he did an internet search for famous namesakes and was asked "Do you mean Droopy C***?"

The environmental health officer, 31, said: "It was as if I'd been smacked with a right hook . . . I started repeating 'Drew Peacock' over and over again. Then I thought - what have we done?

"I went numb and couldn't speak for two minutes. Then I couldn't stop laughing."

Drew's mother, Shetal Patel, had also failed to spot their error despite being a registrar's assistant, said the Sun.

The couple said they were concerned the name would cause him problems in later life but they did not want to change his name as it was already on his birth certificate and other documents.

In 2003, the BBC reported Americans were increasingly turning to popular culture when naming their children.

Recognisable brand names such as L'Oreal, Canon and Armani made the list and two little boys - one in Texas and one in Michigan - were named ESPN, after the sports channel.