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Quizzical Equestrian Queries 1: Outlawing “Spatule” (Spatula)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Personal)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2022/10/28

In sport, all my fellow riders and trainers and the people I meet and deal with have just accepted the fact that I’m here forever.

Ian Millar

Equestrians seem like a funny bunch from the outside. From the inside, after a year of working on this issue, as independent field journalism at a premier equestrian facility, the clientele and the staff within Canadian equestrianism are women on the younger half of life if looking to compete, train, and work, and in the latter half if looking for a paradoxical mix of serious casual sport on the side. On staff side, you have a number of complete gems, as well as passersby who cannot handle high-level facility work ethic and standards and last for about 1 week to 2 months, you know: drug addicts, alcoholics, and generic Canadian shitheads everyone has in their families.

It can be intergenerational too: Grandmothers, mothers, and granddaughters (most often), riding at the same barn. Men seem largely absent from the sport with some older generation as pillars of the community finished with their careers or in the latter period, e.g., Ian “Captain Canada” Millar, Eric Lamaze, James Day, Jim Elder, Thomas Gayford, etc.

Those men have retired, are retiring, and the placements at the high end, too, are, and have been, increasingly, women, e.g., Erynn Ballard, Amy Millar, Tiffany Foster, and so on. The future of Canadian show jumping nationally and internationally is women.

The demographic numbers from some more official statistics note the ages and gender leaning towards middle-aged women with a reasonable income as the largest demographic slice compared to any other in Canadian equestrianism.

One item within the community is the social life. It is, in fact, quite the social club. Barns are cliques; barns compete with one another. There’s strife. There are family connections. There are shifting allegiances, arguments, play, banter, gossip, warm recollections, and so on, in the struggle to finish the day, whether enough staff is present or not. People bring business into the mix. It’s wonderful and horrible at the same time.

Certain questions arise for me. It occurred to me. Why not start researching and answering these questions while I continue the journalistic research? So here we go, the inaugural Quizzical Equestrian Queries: “Scott, you would know. Why can’t people name their child ‘Spatula’?”

Didn’t see that one comin’, a 21-year-old and a 37-year-old set of women colleagues with far more English riding tradition horse experience than me asked it. My first response, “I don’t know.” I couldn’t even think of a decent made-up answer. My joke became, “Because the kid would become stir crazy?” I got laughs (hooray), but I, sincerely, had no idea. The question becomes a bit misleading because of the orientation of the outlawing.

It wasn’t in Canada, general, but in the province of Quebec, in particular. The word was not “Spatula” for the name, but the French Canadian term “Spatule”. It means the same. However, it’s Canadian English versus Canadian French. Canadians of the younger generations do not care about the fights over this language issue from two generations back in the history of the country. Some older people are still embroiled, emotionally invested, in this ‘issue’ of bilingualism, etc.

Anyway, the law can dictate naming rights for someone in a country. Canada is not different. Provinces and territories have different stances. Quebec outlawed the name “Spatule”. Why, though, to the original question? In Quebec, in contrast to other provinces, the laws for naming children and name changes are stricter than others.

For some cases, to change one’s name, there are some serious considerations. Is the casual name used daily not on your act of birth? Is your name foreign, or difficult to write or pronounce? Is your name ridiculed? Is your name associated with negative things, hurts personal reputation, or helps mistake your identity for someone else? Is the use of your name rather than husband’s offensive to religious beliefs or prevents recognition in another country? These are real considerations in Quebec for individuals hoping to change their name. A special case is for residential school survivors; they are free to change their name until June 8, 2032.

To make the formal name change, one needs to have been living in Quebec for one year or more and be 14 years old, while a child under 14 must have a parent ask for them. The rules seem reasonable. Why outlaw Spatule? The Civil Code of Quebec contains an entire chapter on obligation and rights for names and name changes. There was a case, Lavigne c. Beaucaire, [1996] R.J.Q. 1970. The Registrar of Civil Status (Directeur de l’état) filed a motion with a querying of the Court for a couple to be disallowed from naming a child Spatule. Apparently, article 54 of the Civil Code of Quebec states, “Where the name chosen by the father and mother contains an odd compound surname or odd given names which clearly invite ridicule or may discredit the child, the registrar of civil status may suggest to the parents that they change the child’s name.” This is real.

The parents of Spatule (potentially) claimed the, in Court — seriously, the choice for Spatule was in reference to a bird of beauty rather than an instrument used in a kitchen. A Spatula bird is, in fact, a type of duck. I do not think of beauty when I think of a duck, but I do think of parents grasping at Google search results to get themselves out of legal trouble over naming of a child.

The Court granted the Registrar’s Motion (no Spatule to be named in Quebec), holding to the claim: Most people associate “Spatule” with the kitchen instrument and not the ‘bird of beauty’. This would entail ridicule for the child, eventual adult, and so falls under the rule above about ridicule sufficing for outlawing.

Since that time, it, apparently, has reached the Westernmost regions of Anglo-Canada as a cultural comedic item, entering into an equestrian facility.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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