(Very) Foreign Names
While actually having children to name is years in the future for me, I wanted to know what everyone thought of this...
I'm very into studying foreign languages (not all Americans only know one language) and I hope to learn many. I started with Spanish, and have now become interested in more exotic languages, especially those of the Middle East and Asia. I'm currently in the process of learning Arabic, and would like to eventually learn Farsi (persian), Hebrew, Hindi and/or Urdu just to name a few. While I may still add a few European languages to the list, I'm focusing primarily on African and Asian languages. I've also come to love a lot of names from these languages. I wanted to know if it would be considered very weird (in a bad way) to give a child a name from a drastically different culture than your own. I'm white, with very fair skin and hair, as well as blue eyes, and not shockingly have no heritage in any part of Africa or Asia. Do you foresee any problems with giving a child of mine a Spanish, Arabic, or even Japanese, Chinese or Hindi name? Or do you think it would be a lovely, unique choice?
it honestly depends.
some names have heavy cultural connotations. i wouldnt pick Mohammed or Sanjay or Li - they are 'stereotypical' names of their culture.
i also wouldnt pick a name thats 5 syllables and requires special characters like apostrophes and a dictionary in order to pronounce.
there are plenty of foreign names that sound lovely and even normal to our ears, its just a matter of sifting through them all.
if you happen to like a particular name sound from a letter combo or want a name to start with "J" use the Nameberry search and add the origin filter.
ps - i tried this with Japanese the other day and NOTHING came up, no matter what i put in - even blank o_O
It depends on the name, I've seen some very lovely African/Asian names that fit well with American culture, like Afia, Amadi, Dalila, Akira, Amaya, Hana, Kessie, Parisa, Nala, Imara, Zala etc. While others like Falala, Nazy, Kwayubi, Sen, Yui, Salama, Ngozi, Pilipili would be harder to pull off. But I think if you can find a foreign name that fits well with the culture it's a great option for you.
As a language lover myself, I love how much the world opens up when you speak multiple! Especially the name options! I really love Sira (African Origins) and I know a family that had a Musashi (japanese) (girl), Varanya (thai) and Zane. Their names were very international and I think they were amazing.
I agree with the above comments though. It's just going to depend on the name.
I think it depends on the name. Names and cultural appropriation can be an issue, but there is a HUGE gray area. Some names clearly cross the line- Cohen, for example- while others don't (Noam, from the same culture as Cohen, is probably fine.) In the middle it's very, very difficult to tell. If you speak the language the name comes from, you're probably okay. Otherwise it would depend on the name.
Also remember that naming practices vary greatly between cultures. Asian languages put the family name first, for example, and other cultures have rules regarding who can get what name and even what constitutes a given name. Typically we think of names as a group of syllables that does not mean anything in everyday language, but that's not true everywhere. In many cultures names are just common words. Some peoples have rules that no two individuals can have the same name, so parents must be very, very creative. Other cultures have only about 100 given names to choose from in total. It's all very interesting- I'd suggest doing more research into it!
Cultural appropriation... you know how many people in the world appropriate western culture? Granted some places just have it forced on them which is a different story, but the fact remains that no one is apologizing about trying to be western, so don't worry too much about picking up bits of theirs. Be aware of the name's history and the history between your culture and the culture you are borrowing from. Don't be kitsch if you can avoid it. Maybe ask a bunch of people you know of that culture what they think of the name.
We are all just humans, paying too much attention to what little divides us is wasted effort. So one person thinks you're appropriating another's culture, another might be honoured that you think highly enough of their culture to choose names from it.
I love the Arabic pronunciation of Gabriel, and I'm just a Canadian with mixed European ancestry. I got the okay from one Arab friend on faceboook to use the name so I'm just going to frame that and pretend she represents all of the Arab world. Haha :P
In the end does the name even really matter? Your kid will be whomever they choose to be, the name you give them won't stop them. If people get hung up on the name they'd just as easily get hung up on their clothes, beauty or other equally superficial facet. So give them a cool foreign name and maybe teach them about what you love in that culture. They can share that when people ask probing questions.
As long as its easy to read, spell & pronounce I say go for it. The only names I would avoid are names that are highly significant to another culture or religion that you are not a member of. For example a religious Muslim name or something if you're not Muslim. You don't want to come off as ignorant or irreverent, but I think it's totally fine to take names from different origins as long as it won't be super controversial. Our daughter is named Azula (taken from the Spanish Azul, but lots of people think the origin is South African - Zulu). We're considering Athena or Indira for our next daughter & we're white as it gets.
I don't think it would be weird at all! I'm of Slavic heritage but I love Iceland and its language, so many names on my own list are Icelandic. I agree that there are certain names that can strike a person as "stereotypically foreign", I guess that's where "cultural appropriation" comes in. I love a number of Middle Eastern names, many girl names have really beautiful meanings. I particularly like old Sumerian / Mesopotamian mythology and am tempted to draw from these cultures as well. They would need to be easily pronounceable though.