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Naming your child in another culture

post #1 of 56
Thread Starter 
I know that mine and DH's cultures aren't radically different (I'm American, he's English) but there are enough differences in what is considered 'normal' for names that I'm having a really tough time coming up with ones we both like. He has certain associations with names that I don't, and vice versa. It is definitely more conservative here with names and I often hear adults say of those with unusual names that they sound "too American." Then there's the whole classism issue...it is still alive and well here and people have very firm ideas of which names are for posh/rich people, which are for the middle class, which are for the working class and which are just plain 'trashy'. I'm beginning to feel very dejected about naming my baby something that will either be considered 'weird' or naming him or her something I don't really LOVE just to fit in.

Has anyone else struggled with this?
post #2 of 56
DH and I struggled with some similar issues... We wanted a name that was easy to pronounce in both English and Spanish, had similar meanings in each language, etc. We also dealt with names that were too gringo, too Mexican (DH isn't Mexican), too hard to spell in one language, too common, "old lady" names in one language but up-and-coming in the other, etc., plus all the usual issues people have when choosing names (i.e., family tradition, bad memories of people with that name, etc.).

It was tricky, but we found a few (very few!) we both liked. The middle name was still up in the air when DD was born, so I don't love it but it's not at all bad, either. You can definitely find a compromise, but I wouldn't worry too much about picking something just to fit in... just pick something that works for your family!
post #3 of 56
We went through that as well. We had to find a Turkish name that Americans could pronounce and that didn't have any Turkish letters in it. Now we are debating on names for a possible next baby and not doing so well.
post #4 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by heather8 View Post
DH and I struggled with some similar issues... We wanted a name that was easy to pronounce in both English and Spanish, had similar meanings in each language, etc. We also dealt with names that were too gringo, too Mexican (DH isn't Mexican), too hard to spell in one language, too common, "old lady" names in one language but up-and-coming in the other, etc., plus all the usual issues people have when choosing names (i.e., family tradition, bad memories of people with that name, etc.).

It was tricky, but we found a few (very few!) we both liked. The middle name was still up in the air when DD was born, so I don't love it but it's not at all bad, either. You can definitely find a compromise, but I wouldn't worry too much about picking something just to fit in... just pick something that works for your family!
Exactly the same experience, except in Dutch. Sigh . ... It's enough to keep me from having a second!
post #5 of 56
DH's family is from Hongkong, where there is a custom of giving people both a Chinese name (b/c that was the languege spoken by the people) and an English name b/c that was the language spoken by the British administratores who couldn't be bothered to figure out how to pronounce Chinese names correctly. So, it was always assumed that DS would get an "english" name anyway (I use quotes b/c niether of DS's given names are actually English, but my ILs consider all European names "english.")

It still took us till a week after DS's birth to settle on a name.

Then DH filled out the birth certificate without help. DS's middle name is supposed to be Irish, but DH didn't realize that the Irish version and the Scottish version are spelled differently, so DS ended up with the Scottish version :.

MIL simply provide the Chinese name without consulting DH or I . It's a completely unofficial name that never gets placed on any records anyway though.
post #6 of 56
Definitely! We wanted names that were pronouncable in both English and Danish, and names that wouldn't look/sound like the wrong gender in the "other" culture (e.g. Kim is a boy's name in Denmark, and a girl's name in America). DH has a thing against unusual spellings, so even though, for example, I came up with a new way to spell Evelyn so that Danes could get it right without also messing up Americans, he didn't go for it. There's definitely the old-fashioned-over-here/up-and-coming-over-there issue as well.

In the end, our girl name (Dagmar) is still said quite differently in each country, but we just decided we like it too much. Danes don't do middle names, so he gave me total free reign on them which is great too. Our boy name (Ridley) isn't Danish at all, but people are getting more into international names here so I think it will be ok.

When we told our names to my in-laws, they even said that 5 years ago they wouldn't have liked them, but now they are good choices. Dagmar was an "old lady" name but a lot of older names are becoming fashionable again.
post #7 of 56
We wanted to choose a name that was spelled the same in both languages, so it wouldn't have to be "translated". For example, I'm Caroline which in Czech is Karolina, and though it's practically the same name it's pronounced quite differently and spelled differently. We wanted to pick something that wouldn't change much from English to Czech.
We also have a taste for kind of unique names and we decided pretty early on Rufus for a boy and Zoe for a girl. OMG, my whole family flipped. Czech people are ultra conservative when it comes to names and there's even a list of names to choose from, and any name that's not on that list you have to petition a special board to accept it, and it it doesn't exist in the name dictionaries at their disposal they won't let you have it. It's ridiculous. Anyhoo, as you can tell from my sig, we have a Rufus and so far none of the nightmare scenarios that some people predicted for me came true. For alot of people, it's the first time they meet someone named Rufus, but everyone we've ever introduced out son to has only said positive things about his name. Even kids.
post #8 of 56
Denmark has an approved name list too, and if you pick a name that's not on it, the Church of Denmark has to decide to let you use it…

unless one of the parents is foreign-born. I win!
post #9 of 56
our only real trouble in choosing hawaiian names is choosing something that doesn't look like it could be convberted to something gross is one of my red neck realatives in the south got cocky. like Ikaika, the name for stregnth, could so easily be Icki/Icky. when i sent out our first dd's borth announcement i included phonetic spellings and means of both her first and middle name. that seemed to help a lot. we also learned not to tell anyone before the kid is born and named, a lot less hassel that way!
post #10 of 56
Wow, I wish they did that here too! Lucky you!

I would rather trust the Church of Denmark, here it's literally one woman on this board who decides, and if she don't like it, no way! Crazy!!!

And here, last names are ended in -a or -ova for women, and it was only recently that foreign women were "allowed" to not have -ova added to their last name. I had to petition the municipal office to change my name back on my marriage certificate. Instead of issuing us a new certificate, they added a note at the bottom to the effect of "the wife is using the masculine ending of the last name." :
post #11 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by amitymama View Post
Has anyone else struggled with this?
Yeah, but I gave up the struggle a long time ago.

Dh's and my cultures are *so* different that our kids names were going to be "wierd" to somebody, no matter what we called them.

So....since we're conservative and patriarchal we named them by dh's culture, and I picked their middle names, which are more "normal" to English ears. Although I was a little nervous about them having "odd" names, dh chose awesomely meaningful names for them, and they have really grown on me.
post #12 of 56
We did have a hard time, but in the end we decided not to care. DH is English and i'm a whole Mediterranean mix Greek/Italian/Spanish/French (born in Greece)

DS1 is Leonardo, Leon or Leo for short. DD1 is Sophia, DD2 is Ingrid and DS2 is Otto. My family or DH's family don't have any trouble pronuncing DC name, we have Sophias' and Ingrids' too, that detail was not important to us.

My own name(Irina) is not even Greek or anything, it's Russian and i don't have anything to do with Russia =)
post #13 of 56
A bit new to these boards (actually returning), but I guess I'll jump in -- we set out to find names that "worked" in both Germany and the US. That meant no "th"s, no "j"s, no names or initials which have a bad meaning in either German or English --- gah. It actually wasn't to difficult to find several girls' names, since they overlap more and the German "pool" of girls' names is actually quite nice. Our top choice, for the time being, is Annika. Boys' names, on the other hand, were mostly too odd sounding in one country or the other. We ended up agreeing on only one - Nicolas - and even that is one I'd normally skip for being "too popular". We both liked Matthias, but that "th" means it's basically a different name in each language.
post #14 of 56
We had some of a struggle for our second-born, about boys' names, could only make the choice of a veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery long list towards the end of pregnancy. Second name still had to be chosen from 3. And it WAS a boy (I did not want to know before birth) :-).

My husband is Turkish with Kurdish/Arab roots but when we were newly wed we had been fantasizing about names for our possible future children and he named a Kurdish one which could be used for either boy or girl which I just LOVED, also the meaning was nice. And I named a dutch one for a girl that he agreed on, too. So that was more or less decided long in advance and we've been still looking through long lists with names but kept sticking with those first ones.
Our second boy has a name that is both Kurdish and Dutch, with nice meaning in both languages, and very rare in both languages, but not weird.

Important was that the name would be relatively easy to pronounce and/or write down in Dutch, Turkish, Kurdish, English and preferably French. So no 'strange' letters or accents that wouldn't apply in any of the other languages mentioned above. We made sure that it could be used somewhat 'internationally'. We did not want any arab names which would not be very popular in my home country and some other western countries (unfortunately). And the names should fit family name as well, of course.
We also did use our veto when we really didn't like a name proposed by the other or when it could be pronounced wrongly in another language, or had a bad/funny/stupid/whatever meaning in another language. (eg 'Ezel' is a nice sounding girl's name in Turkish, but means 'donkey' in Dutch, 'Mert' either Turkish or Kurdish boyS2 name means m*rde ('sh*t') in French...)
Watch initials, that your child won't be W.C. or the like :-).
We found equally important that the names had a nice sound to them, that their first and middle name were a nice match, and last but not least that the names of both our children were matching somehow (not in a ridiculous way of course) too. And we succeeded to achieve all of these goals, eventually :-).
I am very happy with my boys' names and my husband is, too.

You may have to do a very big effort to go through long lists to find the perfect name, you may have to compromise in the worst case, but do choose a name you find AT LEAST acceptable, preferably beautiful.
Tip: we've also been looking through multicultural name lists. You may get some ideas from those as well?

post #15 of 56
Yeah about the same story here, we went for names that the family on both sides wouldn't have issues with pronouncing and that would sound (while perhaps not common) fairly "normal" in either place. In both cases the middle names are using the Norwegian spellings which doesn't change the sound for an English speaker but makes them look a little more local. For me at least it was also important that the general sound of the name didn't totally change, they aren't pronounced exactly the same in both places but they aren't radically different either.

But then of course as an American both my kids go by shortened forms day to day which is totally not the Norwegian way.
post #16 of 56
we shied away from any names that my MIL and FIL would have a hard time pronouncing. That was about it. Every Japanese name I like got shot down since DH knew 'someone' with that name

When my MIL passed, my DH's Auntie asked me what the kids' Japanese names were. So I found two names that sort of sound like the kids names...I got my Japanese names after all

DH's Dad is half Guamanian and Japanese and all of his bros and sisters have 2 first names.
post #17 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kitsune6 View Post
Every Japanese name I like got shot down since DH knew 'someone' with that name
Oh, I have heard that one before... or the Japanese name is too strange or too outdated. *sigh* He'd prefer names, that sound Japanese, but are not Japanese. Besides that, people in Germany and English speaking countries should be able to pronounce it. I personally like the old German names, but they are totally unpopular in Germany right now. On the other hand, does it really matter that much? We don't even know where we will live in 10 years from now (Japan, English speaking country or somewhere in Europe), better picking a meaningful name, one likes, than investing so much time considering pronunciation or spelling issues.
post #18 of 56
My DS has a French name and an American shortened form (for example Guillaume/Will or Benoît/Ben). This has worked so well I would happily do this again if we have another child (if we had a boy, anyway, our no. 1 girl name is Spanish).

ETA: I used to know an American married to a Greek man and her two boys both had really long Greek names and they went by American shortened forms too. Like Tommy and Nick or something but their full names were really beautiful and were used by all their Greek family.
post #19 of 56
We had a hard time finding a name, too. We both agreed it should be a name that could be pronounced in 4 different languages, the ones most current in our families, that spelling shouldn't be too much of an issue in any of those languages and that the meaning is very important to us. Needless to say we didn't come up with a long list of options

As a matter of fact when my daughter was born we were only sure about her second name, which is in Suahili (neither of the four languages that are important in our family), and we had two possibilities for first names. One I liked and my husband didn't, one he liked and I didn't. THe first thing I thought when I saw her was that her name would have to be the second option.


We named her officially four days later, which is kind of the way they do it in Ruanda- Except that there the whole family gets to suggest names (we let them do that beforehand ) and they do the naming even later, and it took us so long because we were disorganized.


I can't think of a better name for my daughter, and I'm glad we waited until she was born to give her that name. Actually, the Ruandese way makes more sense to me now. I have difficulties imagining a name for a child I have never seen, it makes more sense to me that you would have to get to know the baby first.
post #20 of 56
We had a hard time finding names that fit in English and Swedish. In the end we named dd1 Emma and dd2 Annika. For some reason it was harder to agree on boy's names, so for that reason I'm glad we ended up with girls!!
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