Bilingual is Better

I’ve had baby names on the mind lately, and at this late stage of my pregnancy it’s kind of hard not to. Every sharp kick, jab and foretelling Braxton Hicks contraction is a reminder to stop procrastinating and decide on something, anything, before delivery day.

For my first pregnancy four years ago, it was different, as most first pregnancies tend to be. I was so excited that I basically peed on a stick and ran to a bookstore to purchase a baby name book and started scouring baby name websites immediately in search of a name I would fall in love with. But if you’ve ever looked at one of these books or been on any of these websites, you’ll see that the possibilities are seriously endless. In much the same way I feel when I enter a multi-story department store, I was totally overwhelmed by all the categories, meanings, spelling variations, etc. etc. So many choices, too many choices, and you get to pick just one (well, two, if you use a middle name). One name that will be with your child FOREVER. So I took a breath and a step back and asked myself: Well, what do you want in a name?

Read: In The Name… of Culture?

So I started sorting things out in my head: Do I go with trendy, traditional, classic, cool, strong, sweet or unique? Should it be international, American as apple pie, or a name in Spanish picked off the family tree? Does it have to flow with our last name? How is it going to come off once he or she becomes an adult? Are there any weird nicknames that could come out of it? And importantly, if it’s English-sounding, how will the abuelos and my husband’s family in Central America pronounce or butcher it?

With the first one, once my husband and I found out we were having a girl, it made one part of our baby naming job easier. Her middle name would be the same as mine, Leonor, which is also my mother and grandmother’s name. Now that I’m an adult, I absolutely cherish this name, but truth be told, as a kid, I despised this name. It felt so old-fashioned. But that’s exactly why I love the name now, and the fact that it was passed on to me makes me feel more connected to my family and my roots. I think of my great-grandparents, and what they must have been thinking when they gave this name to my grandmother. Of course, it’s also kind of cool that in recent years, la Infanta Leonor of Spain brought the name back in vogue, and other variations of the name have become a popular choice in naming the newest little princesas of Europe.

After we settled on Leonor for a middle name, picking the all-important first name wasn’t too difficult. We wanted something that flowed nicely into the last name, so we soon settled on Kalila Leonor. Kalila is Arabic in origin. We liked the way it sounded, plus, it has a wonderful meaning: beloved. And yes, the abuelos have no trouble pronouncing it.

In the end, we went down a route that is fairly telling of our hybrid, bicultural and bilingual American-Latino lives. We were definitely very American in giving our daughter an uncommon first name, something that would distinguish her from the herd. But we are also very proud of our culture and heritage and wanted a name that reflected that. And since I already had a family name that had been passed on to me it was easy to pass along the torch.

We’ll probably go down the same route of choosing a not-so-common first name and family middle name for this new baby girl. I do have a short list, and that’s a good thing because we have a short amount of time to decide. As I write, I’m feeling those practice contractions, yikes!

How did you chose your children’s names? Did your heritage play a part in the decision?

{Photo courtesy of Cynthia Leonor Garza}

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