Category: ethnic baby names
The World Cup means many things to many people–mostly rooting for their country’s team–but to name nerds it also means a chance to sample a smorgasbord of international names. They’re all here–Slavic names, Norse names, Hispanic names, African, Asian and Anglo names…
Here’s a selection of some that we found particularly intriguing and possibly exportable, together with the team they play for (understanding that it doesn’t necessarily represent their own ethnnicity). In some soccer cultures–especially Portugal and Brazil–there’s a tradition of using only one name (one Brazilian superstar moniker I’m NOT including is Kaka, even if the accent is on the second syllable), and some of the choices below are the nicknames the players are known by.
ABOU Diaby (France)
ACHILLE Emana (Cameroon)
AURELIEN Chedjou (Cameroon)
BECARY Sagna (France)
BOJAN Jokec (Slovenia)
BROU Angoua (Ivory Coast)
BROWN Ideye (Nigeria)
DANILO Turcios (Honduras)
DANKO Lazovic (Serbia)
Nameberry guest blogger Andrea, whom many of you may know for her intelligent and thoughtful advice on our message boards, and who most recently blogged for us on royal baby names, now focuses her attention closer to home, with this report on naming trends in the midwest.
On a recent Saturday somewhere in North Dakota, an athletic field was filled with fledgling 4-year-old soccer players, learning how to kick the ball and congratulate teammates when they did (or didn’t) make a goal. Behind them were their proud parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and volunteer coaches, all hollering at once:
“Maddox, where’s your soccer ball?” “Yay, Logan. Yay, Logan!” “Hustle, Camden, hustle!” “Chloe, take a time out.” “Go, Ethan!” After awhile the hard “C’s” and “an” ending names started to blend together. I could imagine next year’s preschool or kindergarten teacher mixing some of them up the way their soccer coach occasionally did.
The names of the kids on my nephew’s soccer team are a good example of some of the naming trends in North Dakota and elsewhere in the Midwest, which tend towards newer-sounding surnames, names with a western feel, and names that sound a lot like other names that are already popular. The differences seem more distinctive with boys than they do with names for girls. Many of the names are also common everywhere in the United States, but it seems like some of them are adopted here before they hit the southern or eastern U.S. William, at the top of the charts in much of the South, is far less common in North Dakota, where 60 little Ethans were born last year compared with 26 little Williams. Ryan, popular in the eastern U.S., was most popular in North Dakota well over a decade ago and has now lost steam. Likewise, Jayden and variants have been popular here for over a decade and some of the North Dakota Jaydens have started college. Now, even as the name hits the top of the charts in New York City, North Dakota parents seem bored with Jayden and have moved on to Brayden, ranked at No. 7; Aiden, ranked at No. 9, Caden, which probably doesn’t rank higher mainly because there are so many spelling variants, all listed separately on the popularity chart, and Hayden. Jayden itself is No. 51. All are used for girls occasionally as well as boys. Then there are the sound-alikes like Zayden, Tayden, Trayden, Grayden and others.
There are also distinctive trends that sometimes don’t show up on the top 100 charts. There are more Swedish or Norwegian names here, thanks to the Scandinavian-Americans who settled in the Midwest a century ago. Greta appears on the top 100 list for Minnesota in 2009 and is not as often used anywhere else in the country. Over the years I’ve interviewed young boys named Ole, Nels, Jens, Odin, Thor, Kjell, Christ, Haakon and Soren and young girls named Solveig, Signe, Dagny, Siri, Marit, Ingrid and Kaari. Some traditional Sioux, Chippewa or Three Affiliated Tribes parents give children native language names, like Spotted Eagle or Chaske or Mato or Chenoa.
Western-sounding names for boys like Brody and Wyatt also seem more popular in the Midwest than in some other parts of the country. I’ve seen more than one birth announcement for a little Rowdy or Maverick or Colt. It’s fun sometimes to see how often the roster of bull riders or barrel racers at a summer rodeo actually sound like they belong on a ranch roping cattle. The child sometimes grows up to fit the name. I know that when one of my former colleagues named his son Cooper two years ago, he commented that it’s the kind of name he could imagine being called out by a basketball announcer 15 years from now when his son runs into a gym in front of a cheering crowd. “Go, COOPER! COO-PER! COO-PER!” was echoing in his ears. Cooper, which is also coincidentally my newest nephew’s name, ranked at No. 27 in North Dakota last year. Nationally it was ranked No. 84. In a state where nearly every small town kid plays multiple sports, there are probably a lot of parents dreaming of cheering crowds!
Guest blogger Sachiko has a penchant for unusual names, and a talent for deflecting the criticism of strangers.
“You named that poor boy WHAT? That’s a terrible name! Shame on you!”
With those words, a nice old man in the hospital lobby turned into a mean old geezer, looking down on me and my newborn son, Musashi, where we were sitting in the mandatory wheelchair, waiting for my husband to pull the car around. I hugged my baby to my chest and scowled at the mean geezer until he went away.
Oh, wait, how about this one: The lady in the fabric store who whipped around and denounced me as an abusive mom for saddling my daughter with a monstrosity like — gasp! — Bronwen.
“She’ll never be able to write it!” Fabric Store Lady said. “And her teachers won’t be able to pronounce it.”
“Have you ever named a baby?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, proudly. “I have a son named Jody.”
This is what we’re afraid of, isn’t it, when we consider choosing out-of-the-ordinary names? That an unusual name will socially injure our babies. That the Baby Name Police will arrest us, and we’ll be defenestrated by the crusading extremists of the Orthodox Baby Name Church.
How scary this is depends on you. Me, I’ve never done well at culturally orthodox, even when I’ve tried. But I have friends, parents, and a husband who care deeply about that old moving target, Fitting In.
Mom: “What names are you thinking of for this one?”
Mom, grandly: “…RACHEL!” (pause) “Well, what do you think? Won’t you please use it? Please?”
And that right there was the best and most productive baby naming conversation I’ve ever had with an Orthodox Baby Name Church member.
My mom hates my naming sins, but at least she still has to love me, the baby naming sinner. Mean geezers and nosy fabric store ladies don’t.
Let’s say you like the basic concept of a place name, but you’re not so thrilled when it’s tied to the image of a specific locale. If, for example, you’re thinking Tulsa sounds like a nice, friendly, easygoing, Western name– but then suddenly the image of Oklahoma oil fields spring to mind, or say you think Trenton might be the perfect boy’s name—if it weren’t for the New Jersey connection.
There is one way around this. You could consider place names that are no longer on the map, either because of a name change, possibly for political reasons, or because the place itself disappeared—or may have never even existed at all.
Here, some romantic, faraway examples, mostly with non-specific images:
ANGLIA—Latin name of England
ANNAM—historic name for part of Vietnam
ATLANTIS—legendary island supposed to have sunk into the Atlantic
BRIXIA—the ancient Latin name of the modern Northern Italian city of Brescia
CANTON—Chinese city now called Guangzhou
CARAL –a Peruvian settlement considered the most ancient city of the Americas
CEYLON—old name of Sri Lanka
In commemoration of Passover, nameberry’s own Nephele looks into the history of Yiddish names, and offers some of her favorites–as well as the chance to have one of your own.
Yiddish names have a rich history, rooted in an older generation of Jewish people belonging to the Ashkenazic (from Germany and Eastern Europe) community. The Yiddish language evolved during medieval times from High German (influenced by Hebrew and some eastern European languages), and the word “Yiddish” itself literally means “Jewish.” Genealogists familiar with old U.S. Federal Census records will have noticed many a census record where the census taker recorded an immigrant’s language as being “Jewish” when it more properly should have been recorded as “Yiddish.”
While many fondly associate Yiddish names with their beloved grandparents and great-grandparents, Yiddish is nonetheless making a comeback. California‘s San Francisco Bay area is home to Der Bay, a widely circulated Anglo-Yiddish newsletter of events, and such movies as Fiddler on the Roof and the animated An American Tail (both featuring Yiddish-named characters) are fondly familiar to mainstream America.
Accounting for the many spelling variations of Yiddish names is the fact that Yiddish is a language written in Hebrew letters, which then may be transliterated into the letters of the Roman alphabet for English language readers and speakers. In Yiddish names, “creative spellings” (a frequent complaint on Internet baby name discussion boards) are not only common, but necessary!
Here are some Yiddish names (with their variations) worth considering:
BIELKA, BIELKE — “beautiful, white.”
BLIMA, BLUMA — “flower.”
DAVRUSHA –“ form of Deborah, the Biblical prophetess and judge.
HINDA, HINDE – “hind, doe.”