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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2009

    Question Any "rules" for balancing one's own cultural/ethnic background with name choice?

    I once heard a woman say that no one should give their child a name that didn't match his/her ethnic background and the origin of their surname.

    Obviously, there are some fundamental issues with this stance. Take my future children, for example: they will have a Japanese surname, but will only be 1/8 Japanese. My husband only looks vaguely influenced by this part of his ancestry, and the chances of our children looking even slightly Asian are remote at best. But they should have Japanese first names? Of course, this breaks the other rule, of matching their ethnic background... which will be 7/8 European.

    I'm not giving her argument any credence here, but it did get me thinking. I'm open to Greek, Hebrew and Latin names (among others) even though my husband and I have none of any of those ethnicities/cultures in my genetic makeup (to my knowledge, of course). However I wouldn't consider names that are easily identifiable as Chinese, African, Indian or Mid-Eastern, not because I don't like the association but because I feel I couldn't justify it. I'd feel like a "poser." I don't even feel like we could pull off/justify Japanese names, come to think of it. And yet Hebrew names are fair game in my mind?

    What do you think? Where should the line be drawn, or should it? Should I feel free to bestow Akwete on a mostly-caucasian girl?

  2. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2011

    My daughter is a white kid but she is a mix of Italian, Russian, Catholic, Jewish, ect. I am Italian American and you would probably guess I was Irish by my name & features. My husband could easily be Israeli and even has family members with Asian features. I think any name that's easily pronounced & recognized (to whatever degree) is fair game.

    I personally wouldn't pick a name that could be considered offensive. Anything significant to another religion or culture that I hold no claim to. Anything associated with any marginalized group of people.

    Aside from that anything goes. My daughter's name is popular in Germany, it's Leonie. We have no German heritage.

    I think everyone in this generation is mixed to some degree & the world is more international now. Even though my daughter doesn't have a top 1000 name she probably won't have the most distinct name in her class once she's older. Name your children whatever you love and identify with.

  3. #5
    I think it's easier for people to get away with using Western names for their kids rather than choosing ethnic names. A Chinese kid with the name Clarissa would be perfectly normal while a white kid with the first name Mei-Lin would raise a few eyebrows.

  4. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    I would actually feel kind of uncomfortable using a name that was very strongly associated with the ethnicity of my last name. People would assume that I'm a lot more knowledgeable about that culture than I actually am. I don't really know anything about the countries my great-grandparents came from and I don't consider myself to be that ethnicity. I'm just American, and my ancestors happened to come from somewhere else. I'm not Italian because some of my great-grandparents were, and I wouldn't want to give the impression that I know tons about the language and culture because I don't. If I used a name that was very heavily associated with a culture I don't have ancestry in, the same thing might happen- people may assume I know a lot more about that culture than I do, and I don't want to seem ignorant.

  5. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    It depends on how mainstream the name is.

    My name, Tara, is Indian (it's also Irish but I don't count it because it's anglicized). The name is so mainstream and used in so many cultures that it doesn't scream Indian. Now if I'd been named Tarakesh or Teamhair (the origin Irish form) then that would be weird as I am neither Irish nor Indian

    As for surnames, they can impact my fn choice. My surname is a common word in English so my parents didn't have to worry about matching origins. The combo of my fn & ln don't scream any ethnicity or culture. If I have kids with my current bf then they'll have Spanish last names. I feel that some of my favorites sound odd with a Spanish surname, so I have a separate list of names that I like with a Spanish last name. If I have kids with a guy with a Chinese or French or Indian or... surname, then I'll choose names that I feel work with those surnames. They don't have to have the same origin, they just need to sound good to my ears.

    Fox * Rohan * Jade * Shea * Blaise * Greer
    Lotus * Noor * Tallulah * Jasper * Linden * Arden

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