How I Named My Baby: Atlas Lucian Vidar
3D artist and Boston-native Nila Latimore and Anders Latimore, a programmer, live in Sweden, Anders’s country of origin. On December 12, 2020, they welcomed a son named Atlas Lucian Vidar.
We spoke with Nila about cross-cultural style, Swedish name trends, and baby naming abroad.
How did you choose the name Atlas?
We had Atlas for years. My husband and I met on a metal dating site — music has always been a big part of our lives. One of our favorite albums, by this band called Parkway Drive, is called Atlas. Early on I thought that it would be really cool if our kids had A initials to represent Anders, since he took my last name.
I was thinking to myself, “Okay, we have to incorporate both of us.” I’m really big on Space, so I’ve always been attracted to celestial names. Once I realized that Atlas is celestial, it ties into our love for metal, and it is super strong, I was like, “If we ever have a boy, he’ll be called Atlas.” Luckily, it was already chosen, because we didn’t have a girls’ name at all.
I always knew I wanted two middle names for him. I like the sound of long names. Atlas’s name feels prestigious, it has weight to it. I’m not very religious, but I feel like names are a way to bestow meaning onto the person. If someone has a name with strength, hopefully, that child will have that inner strength. It was always very important to me that he has as much as I can possibly give him early on.
What strategies did you use to narrow down your name choices?
My husband and I have very different tastes. There was a lot of back and forth and he wasn’t really the type of person to suggest names, he just would say yes or no. He’s very traditional in that sense, and I think I wore him down — I was throwing names at him all the time!
I’ve had a note in my phone for years with all the names that I like. Anders and I went through them and got a feel of what both of us are good with. For him, it was really important that the name sounds good in Swedish as well. One of the names that I wanted was Cyrus, it’s pronounced like SEE-rus in Swedish, and that can sound like a different word, so there was a lot of discussion about that sort of thing.
Very early on I had a list of middle names, and I knew I wanted one of them to be Nordic to represent his heritage. We were also going through Old Norse names that would fit well. My husband came across Vidar. I thought it was cool, so I looked into it more. He’s a Norse god — one of the few that survives Ragnarök — and he avenges Odin’s death. Vidar is called the Silent God and it didn’t seem like there were any negatives to his mythology, which is pretty rare. It’s pronounced the same in English and Swedish, so we went for that!
Lucian was very last minute. I had a shortlist of maybe six names, but Atlas came five weeks early. I had a really rough pregnancy, I had placenta previa and was in and out of the hospital fifteen times. One of the things with that shortlist was making sure that the meanings were related to health or light or anything extremely positive because my pregnancy had been so hard, especially during COVID.
Atlas’s birthday is the 12th, the day before Santa Lucia’s Day, which is a big holiday here in Sweden. Every news channel was playing Santa Lucia music and there’s this tradition of little girls and boys having candles. It was a very cozy atmosphere, even in the hospital, so Lucian really made sense.
How is Atlas received in Sweden?
One of the things that I realized is that you can’t have very unique names here. Coming from an African American background, a lot of names are made up — you take the two parents’ names and combine them to create a completely new name. It’s almost impossible to name your baby like that in Sweden. There has to be another person in Sweden with that name or you have to be able to prove that it’s an actual name. You can’t just name your baby “Scarf” or “Blanket” or whatever.
I made sure that Atlas was a name that was around here, and it was — around 200 boys were given the name in 2019. There are a few places where Atlas is very common as street names and stuff like that. So it wasn’t something that was unheard of, it’s just not as popular as it is in the States. A lot of Swedes stick with the Top 20 names for both genders. Every time I tell someone my baby’s name, they are like, “Atlas, really?”
What’s it like being named Nila in Sweden, then?
My parents pronounce it NYE-la, but I’ve met many people who pronounce it in different ways. It’s an Arabic name — my friends who speak Arabic pronounce it NEE-la, and that’s normally what I get. But it’s not that different than being in the States — Nila isn’t common in the Western world like it is in the Middle East. I have friends in Syria and Egypt with daughters and nieces named Nila. But I’ve always been the only one I know. My parents had an Egyptian friend called Nila and they really liked it, so they named me after her.
How has your experience of being named Nila impacted your choice of baby names?
Having such a unique name, and then my husband having such a common name, it was important to choose a name that wasn’t too common but also not unheard of. In Sweden, it’s super common to know several people with the same name, but then it’s hard to differentiate. I didn’t want that to happen to Atlas.
I really didn’t like my name as a child, but I think it taught me a lot about accepting myself. It helped me embrace my uniqueness. I wanted his name to be different enough that it could challenge him to be someone who can be unique and be okay with it.
What were some of the other names on your list?
For a while we had Kiran up there — it means “life.” I really liked it, but in Swedish it sounds a little bit different, like key-RAHN.
I really like Atreyu — it’s out there, but I love it. There’s a band called Atreyu that Anders and I really like, and the boy in The Neverending Story is so sweet.
Atlas and Atreyu would be a cool sibset, I have to say. Would you be able to use Atreyu in Sweden?
Yeah, but it would be pronounced ah-try-YOU, which is different. I think I could get behind it, I just have to say it more. Anders would veto it, probably.
I love Evren, the Turkish name, for a boy. I caught myself almost saying it to Atlas the other day.
I also have Cree, Koa, Lowen, Salem — but here Salem would be pronounced sah-LEEM, and there are a lot of Salems here, actually. For Norse names we had Torsten on our list, but it’s kind of a grandpa name here. There are a lot of Torstens, a lot of Torbjörns, which I also love. Torbjörn means “Thor’s bear” and Torsten means “Thor’s stone.”
That’s something that can get lost in translation. I can look at the data, but it’s hard for me to tell which names are cool and uncool internationally.
Grandma and grandpa names for babies are trending right now. A lot of Swedes use the same names over and over or they’ll change little things, like hyphenating. It’s also very popular to get called by your middle name. Anders is my husband’s middle name — his first name is Per — he’s a junior. But his mom goes by her middle name even though there’s nobody else in the family that has her first name.
Even when I go to the doctor, I get called by my middle name, Dominique. It’s easier than trying to figure out Nila! Since it’s a common practice, I wanted Atlas to have good middle names so that if Atlas doesn’t resonate with him, he can go by Lucian or Vidar.
What are the popular names in your social circle?
I have a lot of international friends. Some of them married Swedes or came here for school or work. With a lot of the babies I know, the parents were trying to balance that international name struggle. I have friends with children named Bianca, Beatrice, and Isabel. Lily is really big here. Linnea too, which is pretty Scandinavian. A friend named her son Torsten and it immediately dropped out of my list. I am that person. It was especially surprising since both of the parents are English.
So these grandma and grandpa names are coming back in Sweden. Besides Torsten, what other names have you noticed?
The Swedish goddess of apples, Idunn, is really big. It’s pronounced EE-dun, which is so nice because it sounds like Eden. Karin is very popular, but that’s also a grandma name.
Classic J names for boys like Johan and Josef. Jurgen is getting a lot more popular — that’s also an old dude’s name. Kirsten, Johanna, Josefine, Charlotta — I know several — Emma, of course. Mikaela, but girls often go by Mika. The names here are a bit more traditional, but Old Norse names are coming back, which is really cool.
Would you have given your son a different name had you lived in the US?
I think Atlas and Lucian would still be in there. Vidar would have been outside of my realm — I wouldn’t have known about it, really. I probably would have gone with the ones I always liked. In high school, we had those robotic baby dolls we had to take care of, and I named mine Orion.
I think when you’re a name addict it starts early. I was naming all of my dolls, my TVs even — that’s where I’m coming from. When it came to actually naming a person, I was like, “Oh man, I have to get this right!”
Do you have other A names on your list that you want to share?
Aviana was our top girl name. It’s so good! I also really liked Annabelle, but it was vetoed. Aveline, Amina, Avalon, and Arizona — it’s out there! It is related to the color red, and in India, my name means “blue.” So I thought the color connection would be cool. And then she could be Zozo or Zona!
What advice would you give to people starting the baby name process? Actually — what advice would you give ex-pats starting the baby name process?
I would tell them to try very hard to get their loved ones involved. That helps — I talked to Anders’s parents about the names of people from their childhoods. The names were all pretty similar to what’s around now, but I was able to pick up on the vibe and if there were trends within the family.
And more generally, it’s nice to be able to tie in your personalities. I think that’s more important than certain trends that are happening wherever you live. If what’s important to you as a couple is keeping tradition alive, or you want boldness or creativity, or if being intellectual is your thing, then those themes within your partnership should be reflected in a baby name.
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