The child has gone by Blu – the Italian spelling of blue – for the 18 months since she was born, her parents told Il Giorno, but despite the name being entered on her birth certificate and passport they received a summons ordering them to appear in court this week to choose another.
“If we don't show up on Thursday with an alternative, a judge will decide our daughter's name for us,” father Luca told the northern newspaper.
The court's objection isn't just a matter of taste: it is based on a presidential decree, issued in 2000, that states that “the name given to a child must correspond to their sex”.
“Given that this is a modern name based on the English word 'blue', and that it cannot be considered unequivocally attributable to a person of the female sex, the birth certificate must be rectified by inserting another female name that the parents may propose during the course of the hearing,” the summons reads.
Blu's parents plan to challenge the order by arguing that the word is already used as a girl's name not only overseas – most famously by Blue Ivy, daughter of US music royalty Beyoncé and Jay-Z – but here in Italy too. In 2016 there were six female Italian Blus, according to national statistics office Istat, and five in 2015. While the records show there have been a smattering of boy Blus, they are so few that Istat doesn't have exact numbers.
According to Il Giorno, there are two other girls in Milan alone named Verde ('green'). And another set of parents were summoned to the same court this week for also naming their child Blu, the paper said.
One woman well placed to sympathize, 41-year-old Blu Lapore of Rome, told La Repubblica that her mother had convinced the registrar recording her birth certificate by arguing that names change with the times – for instance, the name Celeste, which was originally a boy's name in Italy but by now is almost exclusively given to girls.
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Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP
Since it's up to registry offices to alert the courts to birth certificate “anomalies”, whether or not a moniker gets past Italy's name police often depends on the local registrar.
Even more traditional names have fallen foul of the gender rule in the past: a couple in Florence went to the supreme court after judges objected to their decision to call their daughter Andrea, a girl's name in English-speaking countries but in Italy a common boy's name. They won their case in 2012 and Giulia – the name judges had ordered them to take instead – was struck from their daughter's birth certificate.
In general Italians remain overwhelmingly conservative when it comes to what they call their children, with the top ten most popular boy's names in 2016 dominated by centuries-old Italian titles like Francesco, Alessandro, Leonardo and Lorenzo.
The list of girl's names is marginally more diverse, with foreign variants such as Emma, Ginevra and Alice all making the top ten (even despite the latter resembling an Italian word for anchovy). More numerous by far, however, are Sofias, Auroras and Giulias.
Even foreign parents in Italy tend to choose traditional Italian names for their children, according to Istat, which says that Matteo, Leonardo, Sofia and Alessia were among the most popular choices for second-generation babies in 2016.