In The Name Of… Culture?

Posted by:  |  Category: Traditions + Culture

Photo by JAG Photography

Photo by JAG Photography

I recently went through my running list of possible names for our second child – to be born in September – with my husband. I’m sad to report it didn’t go very well – although I was not surprised. He didn’t really like most of them. So we’re kind of back to to square one.

For some – especially within the Latino population, naming their child might not be a very difficult task for they have no problem choosing the name of someone in the family, their father or mother, or another relative whom they want to honor or as a kind of tradition passed on from generation to generation. Like my husband, for example. He carries his father’s name as so does his son from his first marriage. I respect this decision, but I don’t agree with it. Even though I absolutely L-O-V-E my name (I’m not named after anybody and no one else in my family has my name), I just can’t fathom having two Roxanas in the house. Not only is it confusing, but I feel like it kind of robs the new member of the family a bit of their own identity.

Then, there’s the matter of how much I want the name to reflect our culture or how ethnic the name should be. I remember when I was pregnant with Vanessa and while I was visiting my family in Perú, my cousin showed me her little book of baby names and as I was going through it, I found several different ones in Quechua – the language spoken by the indigenous people of my country and other South American countries. Knowing it would annoy my mother – who prefers more Spaniard names – I chose one and I couldn’t contain my laughter when I announced it: URPI, which means dove in Quechua! ¿Qué cosa? asked my mother in desbelief. ¡Estás loca!

I was just kidding, of course, but it got me thinking about the other dilemma I have in choosing a name for my child. Although I know I’d like to find a a name that reflects our heritage – a Latino name – more than anything else it has to be one that can be easily pronounced by English-speaking people. In other words, I would hate to choose the kind of name that would be so difficult for English-only speakers that it would end up being butchered.

Coincidentally, at one of my recent prenatal appointments, I met an American doctor married to a Peruvian man from Cuzco who had named her daughter Quilla, Quechua for Moon. I immediately asked her if others here in the States were able to pronounce her name and she laughed knowingly.

As I was dwelling on my possible list of names recently, I came across the top 10 Hispanic names of the last five years according to the Social Security Administration. Some didn’t surprise me, others I hadn’t even thought about.

Check out the names for niñas:

1. María (my mom, her sisters and my sister’s middle names)
2. Sofía (my brother’s daughter’s name)
3. Isabel (my aunt’s and sister-in-law’s daughter’s name)
4. Adriana
5. Daniela
6 .Valeria
7. Ángela
8. Mariana
9. Juliana
10. Liliana

I like Daniela, Valeria and Ángela (they pretty much sound the same both in English and Spanish), but I truly like Juliana. My husband doesn’t like any of them. And, what’s worse, everyone in my family hates Juliana because it reminds them of some song that goes something like: “Juliana qué mala eres, qué mala eres Juliana.” Go figure.

Here are the top ten names for niños:

1. José
2. Ángel
3. Juan
4. Diego
5. Carlos
6. Jesús
7. Xavier
8. Antonio
9. Miguel
10. Alejandro

I was cracking up when I saw this list. The first two names, José Angel, are my husband’s and his father’s names. I like Diego, but it kind of bothers me that it is now so easily associated with Nickelodeon’s Dora the explorer. I like Miguel – my father’s name – but I know it’ll be shortened to Mike or mispronounced. The u is silent (that’s the best way I can explain it), but most English-only speakers don’t understand that, so they actually pronounce it. This was a non-issue in Miami, but now that we live in Denver, things are totally different. A lot of people don’t really care if their name is mispronounced, but then, why even have a name. This is one of my pet peeves. What can I say?

In case you’re wondering what some of the rejected names were, here’s a sample: Katalina, Stella and Carolina for a girl and Ignacio, Javier and Gianmarco for a boy. Good thing I wasn’t really in love with any of them, but the best part is that we will actually find out later on today what we’re having in September. So choosing should get just a tiny bit easier! I’ll keep you posted…

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