Naming your child in another culture - Mothering Forums

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Old 04-24-2008, 03:03 PM - Thread Starter
 
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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?

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Old 04-24-2008, 03:24 PM
 
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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!

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Old 04-24-2008, 04:09 PM
 
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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.
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Old 04-24-2008, 04:43 PM
 
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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!
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Old 04-25-2008, 06:05 AM
 
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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.

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Old 04-25-2008, 06:31 AM
 
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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.
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Old 04-25-2008, 03:36 PM
 
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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.
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Old 04-25-2008, 03:40 PM
 
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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!
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Old 04-25-2008, 03:48 PM
 
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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!
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Old 04-25-2008, 03:49 PM
 
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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." :
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Old 04-25-2008, 05:29 PM
 
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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.
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Old 04-28-2008, 03:57 PM
 
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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 =)
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Old 04-28-2008, 05:36 PM
 
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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.
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Old 04-28-2008, 08:17 PM
 
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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?


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Old 04-29-2008, 04:31 AM
 
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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.

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Old 04-29-2008, 01:50 PM
 
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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.
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Old 04-29-2008, 03:37 PM
 
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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.
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Old 04-30-2008, 05:47 AM
 
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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.
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Old 04-30-2008, 01:18 PM
 
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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.
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Old 05-05-2008, 07:36 PM
 
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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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Old 05-07-2008, 12:06 AM
 
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Yeah, we have to go back and forth, and this baby coming in a couple of months still is somewhat nameless. DS we knew right away, as it was a Biblical name, popular in both of our countries.
Typically, the child would get an English name, a tribal name, and then take the father's middle name as the last name. (My husband's middle name, which is his tribal name, is my last name.)
With DS, we gave him an English first name, my husband's father's English first name as a middle name, and then my husband's last name. It's still family oriented, and totally made sense to my family. His family was okay as it still passed down names, but I don't think they pronounce DS's first name in the American fashion. It's kind of sad now that we didn't give him a true tribal name, and we regret it.
For DD, we took my husband's grandmother's English name as her first name, a traditional tribal name as her middle name, and my husband's last name as her last name, so both kids have the same last name. This is working well, as relatives on his side love to call her by her tribal name, and the first name is one my family can say, although it's very unusual. I did some searching, and found that is was infrequently used in Prussia/Romania, which is where my family comes from, so that has some roots to it as well.
For Baby3, who knows? We're still working on it. DD wasn't actually named until the next day because we needed to feel out her personality. I think it wil be the same with this one, only we need a list of boy's and girl's names because we don't know the gender.
And yes, we did run into some language issue.
I loved Gwendolyn, unfortunately, gwen means chicken in DH's native tongue. I loved Malaya, but it means prost!tude in his second language. Definitely a no go there! There were some others, but those stand out the most.
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Old 05-14-2008, 03:25 PM
 
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My mother's side of the fam is so wide ranged in different Europen heritage that nothing is of large percentage or very traceable. Unfortunatly, I didn't want to give the typical Brittany, Ashley, Meagan, or Stephanie (although I like all of those names). I wanted my daughter to have a name that no one else in her group of friends or classes at school would have. I wanted to give her a name from my heritage (being white and typical American I don't know jack about my background) I thought it would be a good starting point to find a name uncommon in Americans but, still not too 'weird'.

So I asked around my dad's side of the fam and they all seemed to give me one major answer. So I thought, well this must be the biggest percentage I have in me so I'll pick a name from that language. SO I did, and I like the name as does my hubby. But, it's the traditional spelling and people have no idea how to pronounce it. Even when I slowly tell them they stare at me and try (without secess) to pronounce it. I nor my husband think it's a difficult name but, everyone else seems to have issues with it. Even much of our family STILL cannot say it properly and she is 2 1/2!

Also, it happens to be a Russian name (fairly popular I guess) although spelled differently. There is a big Russian stigma where I live so often times when I tell people the name they repeat it back with sour face and say something like, "hmmm, thats an.... interesting name." and turn away.

Geez people! Usually people seem to like the name when they finally get it right but, it's rather annoying that it's so difficult for people.

To make matters worse about a year after my daughter was born my dad's fam starting claiming a different heritage and said we actually aren't ANY of the other! I think I threw my arms up at that point. But we still love her name all the same. I also gave her the name because of it's meaning, so it still has valid reasoning.

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Old 05-14-2008, 03:29 PM
 
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Our girls name we have picked out is English, the boys name is Irish. I'm hoping both sides of the family will just be happy the granola freaks didn't name their kid in Klingon.

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Old 05-16-2008, 10:37 AM
 
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Like most of the PPs we wanted a name that would sound the same in both of our languages. -- I love the name Elizabeth, but it becomes Elizabetta in Italian which I'm really not so fond of, and the Italian pronunciation for Claudia is so pretty in Italian, but just kind of lumpy in English. You get the idea.

Then Dh and I had the added problem of not being able to agree upon a name. In the end we had a very short list of only 2 options; Valentina and Eloisa. I wanted to wait until after the birth to finalize DD's name. (My mom wanted to name me Willow Serina, then she met me and, fortunately, completely changed that Idea.) I'm actually glad that DD seemed to be more of an Eloisa than a Valentina, because, as much as I love it, it is a pretty common name here in Italy. I think it's in the top 20, so actually maybe DD was fated to be Eloisa all along.

I made a hybrid of our mothers' names for her middle name, and so it's neither American nor Italian, it's simply pretty IMO. (Although I found out later that it's Hebrew, but with a different pronunciation.) But here the laws have recently changed so now the Middle Name is attached to the First Name. You used to be able to separate them with a comma and then it made the Middle Name optional, but now on all documents the complete full name must be used, no using just the initial or leaving it off altogether like in the USA.

DH liked my made up middle name, but thinks it will be a hassle for DD, having an extra name. I don't care, Eloisa's middle name is very important to me. DH has no Middle Name. (My brother asked; "Well, when he was a kid, how did he know when his mother was mad at him, with no middle name?" )

-- Miss 1928 -- and Opera Singing Mamma to Eloisa -- 12 Feb 2007
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Old 05-16-2008, 02:20 PM
 
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Yes, DH is Egyptian and Muslim. I'm American...and a Muslim convert... but to be honest, a lot of the Muslim names still seem strange to me. So, we tried to pick names that worked in both settings... were easy to pronounce, etc.

When our second son Ali was born, my parents thought his name was Ollie (short for Oliver) for a few days until they saw it written.

The bigger issue for me was the Arabic naming standard... whereas it's first name husband's name grandfather's name great-grandfather's name etc. I did not like the fact that all of our kids (male or female) have my husband's name as their middle name. It seems very strange to me. However, there's a chance that we would live in the ME, and if that were to happen, DD having a female middle name would be seen as very strange, as her middle name would be her last name in most things.

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Old 05-20-2008, 04:16 PM
 
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We also struggled with this. I am American and my husband is South Asian (Sri Lankan). We decided on a Sri Lankan first name for our daughter, but had trouble finding one that we could both agree on. Like many PPs, other family members had to be able to pronounce it. It needed to sound "pretty" to me, needed to have a meaning (other than something flowery) for my husband, and could not be too "old" (i.e. like a grandmother or old aunt). Since it was hard for me to determine the last one, since it is culture-specific, we went through lists and lists and lists of names that ended up on the "cutting room floor". We finally bought a book of Sanskrit names. After going through it a few times, we were still undecided (though we had some short-listed). I decided to give it one more look and found one name that had a nice meaning and sounded pretty, and for some reason just sounded "right" to me, though I had apparently overlooked the first dozen times that I flipped through the book. When I mentioned the name to my husband, a bit matter-of-factly as I did not want to be disappointed, his eyes lit up - we both knew that we found the right name for our daughter. My parents were surprised that we were choosing a South Asian name (not sure why since we are bi-cultural), but loved it immediately as well.

Apparently doing it rong and ruining it for everyone, but I don't give a crap anymorebanana.gif

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Old 05-20-2008, 09:01 PM
 
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We dealt with this issue. Dh is Armenian, but was born and raised in Turkey. Because the Turks committed genocide against the Armenians, there is bad blood there, so some of the prettier Turkish names I liked were vetoed. Armenian uses a completely different script and alphabet, so there were some Armenian names that simply couldn't be pronounced in English. In the end, I told dh that since I had the pleasure of carrying our dd in my womb, he could have the pleasure of naming her. From a list of Armenian names his sister sent from Istanbul, he picked a very, very pretty French first name (very well-known in France and used as a nickname in modern Armenian) and a pretty Armenian middle name that transliterates in to English easily. He did a great job of naming her and it fits her to a T.
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Old 05-22-2008, 10:49 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Miss 1928 View Post
DH liked my made up middle name, but thinks it will be a hassle for DD, having an extra name. I don't care, Eloisa's middle name is very important to me. DH has no Middle Name. (My brother asked; "Well, when he was a kid, how did he know when his mother was mad at him, with no middle name?" )
That's funny since I got a bit of flak from my French in-laws for only giving my DS one middle name. My DH has 2 (and a double first name) and I think my FIL has 4 middle names! I think part of it is because it's very easy in France to legally go by one of your middle names. You don't have to go through an official name-changing process. I guess I'd figured it was similar in Italy. BTW I love the name Eloisa, it's so pretty.
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Old 05-23-2008, 03:49 PM
 
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My dd is Freya Alice - we both agreed on this name - funny we never even mentioned a boys name even though we didn't know that she was a girl, but it's not easy for the french; ds is Kian and was the only name we agreed on at all, then the day after he was born dh broke his leg and didn't have the opportunity to tell me the name he really wanted to call him (Zac) which I love so I had to go with Kian (we only have 3 days to name our babies here in France so I was under pressure and in the neonatal unit) and although he really suits his name now I had a difficulty in calling him that for the first while!

ewe + dh = our little lambs + we and have many just : and : life .
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Old 05-23-2008, 04:04 PM
 
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Like most of the PPs we wanted a name that would sound the same in both of our languages. -- I love the name Elizabeth, but it becomes Elizabetta in Italian which I'm really not so fond of, and the Italian pronunciation for Claudia is so pretty in Italian, but just kind of lumpy in English. You get the idea.
Miss 1928: I'm trying to come up with names that sound appropriate in both English and Italian. I'm finding that girl names are infinitely easier because names ending in "-a" are fairly mainstream here in the States, but boy names that end in an "-o" seem to say "I am ethnic."

I'm curious, did you have boy name choices and if so, what were they?
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