Category: baby name advice
By Beth Grimm
As the proud mummy of two, soon to be three, bilingual children, who attend international school and are exposed to multiple cultures on a daily basis, I am constantly reminded of the need to consider the implications of names. The wrong name could cause frustration for family members or even ridicule of the child. So what factors should you consider?
Pronunciation – It is important to be aware how the name will be pronounced by different family members, dependent on their native language. Having lived in Central and Eastern Europe most of my adult life, I frequently confront the difficulty in pronouncing the ‘th’ sound in my name, Bethany. My counterpart may think it’s fine to call me, a woman in her thirties, Betty; I, as a Brit, think of an elderly lady with permed hair.
The first criterium for naming my children was no ‘th’ sounds. Off the list came Dorothea, Martha, Arthur and Nathaniel. Other sounds may cause no problem, or the difference be unimportant. The Germans say Ze-ra-fee-na for Seraphine, which is similar and quite pleasant. My daughter answers to both. Just be warned, you may feel attached to the name Lawrence and your beloved uncle Larry, but your Japanese family may hate you for it, go for Ren and keep everyone happy!
Soundalike Rude Words – You would be surprised how many names sound like rude words in other languages. I was discussing names the other day with my husband and pointed out the name Akako, which was a Name of the Day here on Nameberry. I commented that we couldn’t use that name and he was baffled. Our six year old, on the other hand, sat in the corner giggling and when questioned as to why… “Mummy said the K word” Then, my husband understood; it contains a children’s word for toilet business.
This is far from an exception; many a beloved name has to be struck from the list for similar reasons. Zack and Chloe are a no-go for the Germans, Sookie for the Russians; Danish people, consider carefully before naming your daughter Bente, if you have British relatives. Where possible, it would be best to ask a teenage native speaker what they think of a name, as an adult may be too mature to spot the problem.
Direct Translation – Here, an adult will be of assistance, or even an online dictionary. A name may be perfectly innocent in your native language but sound ridiculous, or even unpleasant in the language of your foreign relatives. I adore the name Viola, but a deep rooted desire to move to Spain one day takes this one off our list. The verb violar means ‘to rape’. Another time, I was engrossed in my family history research and uncovered the gorgeous name Rosine. I turned to my husband with fluttering eyelashes and got the swift and uncompromising response, “I’m not naming my child Raisin!”
Historical and Cultural Influence – In school, you learn a little of the history of other countries, but even if you take it as a specialist subject in high school leaving exams, it is doubtful you would study enough of the history of another culture to make immediate subconscious connections between a chosen name and what it means to other members of your international family.
My personal experience with this came after the thought that I might name one of my daughters after my Great Aunt Eva, a woman who shared my passion for genealogy and was always kind and caring. It was quickly vetoed in the early stages of name selection, however, when my husband said, “What, you mean like Eva Braun?” Living in Germany, having a child who shares her name with Hitler’s wife may not be the most sound decision.
Honoring the family member – So how do you honor the family member with the strongly cultured or perhaps, inappropriate name? The first and easiest option is to use the middle name slot. Nobody shouts their child’s middle name on the playground and a teenager can easily hide it if embarrassed. Laura Brunhilda can tell everyone the B stands for Belle. Another option is to find a soundalike name without the association. With the Eva example, Evangeline and Evelyn could also work well, without the immediate historical link. The most subtle way of all would be to find a name which means the same thing from the partner culture, honoring Grandad Raul by naming your baby Ralph.
It’s definitely a minefield, but with a little more care and a lot of patience, you will find the perfect name that allows your little precious child to fit in, wherever they may be.
By Aimee Tafreshi
It’s a New Year and time for new baby name trends to emerge, some names to fade into the dust, and others to take center stage. During the past decade, we have seen many baby name trends come and go, and names like Aiden, Emma, Ava, Brooklyn and Jayden take center stage. As we enter 2015, can we make some baby name resolutions for the New Year?
By Linda Rosenkrantz
These days, not many of us name our kids Junior—though British singer Peter Andre (whose other child is Princess Tiaamii Crystal Esther) did just that–or even call them My Name, Jr. * But there are ways that you can still honor yourself but a little less blatantly. And for this, as in so many ways (just kidding), we can look to the stars for ideas.
By Gay Cioffi
Just as in real estate where the three most important things are: LOCATION… LOCATION…. LOCATION, when bestowing a name on a baby the three most important things are: PRONUNCIATION… PRONUNCIATION… PRONUNCIATION.
As a person whose last name is almost never pronounced correctly, Cioffi (the Ci is like Ch and …oh, if only I had a buck for every time I have had to say that!!), I know that navigating the social territory of “when and how often to correct” those who mispronounce it is tricky, to say the least. I had a third grade teacher who pronounced it KEY-OFF and I cringed every time I was called on for the entire school year.
By Lauren Apfel, Omnimom
I wrote a post here not too long ago called Confessions of a Baby Name Snob, a funny post about how my sister and I name other people’s babies better than they do. It was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, this piece, but like all resonating humor there was more than a kernel of underlying truth. Readers must have picked up on this, because an equally funny thing started happening as soon as the post went live: messages in my inbox with subject lines like “Name my baby!” and “Help us, please!”. Emails with swirling stories of beloved great grandmothers’ initials and first names that had to work in two languages and middle names that needed to start with this letter or that.
Several of the pleas, I kid you not, came straight from the hospital, where a new baby was lying in his bassinet, swaddled, helpless, waiting expectantly to be bestowed with the perfect moniker. How could his parents fail him now? They couldn’t. So they got in touch with me. Not because I have any savant-like skill in this arena, I assure you. But because they were looking for someone, someone who cared, to hold their hand through the thrilling, yet increasingly anxiety-inducing, process of branding a child for life. What they wanted, it occurred to me, is what all of us want, all of us, that is, who appropriately value the art of nomenclature. What they wanted was a little baby naming therapy and I was happy to oblige.