Californian Wins Right to Use Exclamation Point in His Name

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Darren Lloyd Bean of San Diego has won his struggle to change his name legally to "Darren QX Bean!"

The "QX" is pronounced "Lloyd."

I know this because according to the court’s opinion, Bean (the change hasn’t taken effect yet) actually petitioned to change his name to "Darren QX [pronounced ‘Lloyd’] Bean!," with the brackets and quotation marks included in the proposed name. After the trial judge told him that punctuation was typically not permitted in names, let alone internal brackets and exclamation points, Bean said he would drop his request for the bracketed material but insisted on keeping the exclamation point.  He claimed that his friends typically greet him as "Bean!", "raising the pitch and volume of their voices above their usual spoken tone," so that the exclamation point was intended to convey how his name would be pronounced in the same way that an accent mark does in other names.

The trial judge refused to grant the petition, but the Fourth District reversed. Apparently, at least in California, under the common law you can change your personal name to whatever you want (unless you are a minor, an inmate, or a sex offender), and the statutory requirement of a petition is primarily intended to ensure there is a record of the change. The statute does allow a petition to be denied if someone can show "good reason," but as that suggests the burden is really on whoever is challenging the name to demonstrate good reason. Bean’s petition was unopposed.

The majority said it could find only three California cases where a name-change petition was denied:  one for the Roman numeral "III," one for "Peter Lorie" (too close to the then-famous actor "Peter Lorre), and one for "a recognized, publicly condemned racial epithet unprotected by the First Amendment."  It also pointed to other cases that had approved requests to change a name to "," "Kentucky Fried" and "Ringling Beats" (obviously, this has been a recent animal-rights strategy) and did not see any problem with the use of a punctuation mark. The majority pointed out that many common names, for example, "O’Rourke," contain a punctuation mark that does not even aid in pronunciation like Bean’s would. It found no good reason to deny the change.

The dissenting judge, who coincidentally is named "O’Rourke," was not amused. He thought that using an exclamation point would be ambiguous, because it is meant to express a strong feeling but that feeling could be "pleasure, disgust, horror, or consternation — to name but a few." Judge O’Rourke distinguished the use of apostrophes in names, saying that was not ambiguous because the apostrophe always stands for "omitted letters." He did not say which ones it always stands for.

Bean will become Bean! early next year, once the case is returned to the trial court.

Link: Bean v. Superior Court, Case No. D048645 (Cal. App. Nov. 28, 2006).