Ryan Wong: Can You Mix Ethnicities?
Ethnic names are getting more and more popular, and not only among people from “matching” ethnic backgrounds. Irish choices like Ryan and Kevin — and Aidan/Aiden, Connor/Conor, Kennedy and Riley — have been favored by parents of all ethnic backgrounds for several years now.
Spanish names are gaining in popularity too. Americans originally from Spanish-speaking countries are more likely now than they were in the past to choose names with a Spanish flavor, from such classics as Jose and Maria to Angel, Sofia, and Bianca.
The Latin trend has been influential in a more general way, with elaborate feminine forms such as Isabella, Gabriella, and Adrianna gathering steam, along with o-ending boys’ names such as Carlo and Mateo.
Parents whose French, Italian, Russian, or African forebears emigrated generations ago are now more than ever looking back to the old country as a source for names. Choosing something with ethnic significance is a way to infuse your child’s name with personal meaning and to help establish your child’s identity in the larger world.
Sometimes, a name may be a way to assert an ethnic strain that might otherwise not be visible. Because we used my husband’s Czech last name, for example, I wanted our first child’s name to be Irish, the strongest part of my background. We considered Bridget (my grandmother’s name), Siobhan, and Kerry before settling on Rory.
But what if you like French names in the same way you prefer French food and Parisian clothes: for their style value? If you’re attracted to the romance of Italian names like Chiara and Paolo, even though your family is a blend of Jewish and Caribbean, or if your last name is Wong but you, like hundreds of other Wongs, want to name your son Ryan?
Nothing wrong with that, we say. The world of names — thanks to online sources and parents’ adventurousness — is getting wider every day, and the process of choosing the perfect name for your baby is more interesting and more meaningful for it.
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on January 27th, 2009 at 10:30 am
This probably sounds really ethnocentric, but I find ethnic mis-matches between first and last names only sound alright if either (a) the so-called ethnic first name has worked its way into the mainstream naming canon (as in Ryan, Carmen, or Ingrid) or (b) the child derives some of his or her ancestry from the ethnicity of the first name. For example, Ryan Wong sounds fine, and so does Chen Wong. But Aonghus Wong and Chen Murphy both seem weird to me unless the baby is part Chinese, part Irish.
on January 27th, 2009 at 4:06 pm
As someone with a Scottish surname and a Russian, Polish & Greek maternal line, I find it refreshing to see a mix-up. They’re interesting. I’ve been playing around wth Sanskrit names and I have not a drop of anything Arabic/Indian in me. I wouldn’t use them up front, but in the middle they’re fair game. Why not? The world is getting smaller, language is starting to overlap in places, on it’s way to a worldwide standard and times are changing. As long as it’s a valid name, and it’s not going to offend anyone from that particular group, I say “go for it”! 😀 I would be intrigued upon meeting a Belen Windsor, for example, and want to know a bit more about her than if she were Catherine Windsor. *shrug* Maybe it’s just me.
on January 27th, 2009 at 6:37 pm
I think Asians in general are very conservative in their naming practices, often picking names that have been in the mainstream for a generation or two. I bet if you ran a survey most would say that Ryan is not an identifiably ethnic name.
on April 6th, 2010 at 12:03 pm
Ryan Wong is a nice name. one of my ex-boyfriends’ name was Ryan Wong.
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