Saturday, July 17, 2010

What's In A Name?

What's in a name?  That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

~William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

When Baby's gender was revealed in April, everybody started asking if we've found a name. The name says everything, naturally. We had some idea of the a name but we were not quite ready to reveal it publicly at that time, for fear of us changing our own minds! So we decided to wait a few months till we felt more certain, and the official announcement came during the Baby Shower.

Naming a child is a BIG thing. The name can make or break the kid in future. I guess every couple goes through their own personalized child-naming process, most girls would have even dreamed of a thousand baby names since the beginning of puberty; and I'm sure we've all had great fun naming all our toys, dolls and pets!

I would imagine these would be some basic naming styles:
  1. By initial; this is most common; if the father's name starts with an 'A' then all the children starts with 'A'
  2. By ancestors; I know in the west they have the tradition of honoring their grandfathers, great grandfathers, uncles, etc.
  3. Some traditional old Chinese clan follows a clan reference book or a 'family' reference for their Chinese names.
  4. Some Chinese consults clairvoyants and soothsayers who will then analyse the baby's date and time of birth plus various other 'astrological' factors.
  5. Catholics and religious enthusiasts will choose Biblical names and names of Saints, Prophets or prominent religious activists. My dear dad in his Catholic-phase has chosen to name my younger brother that way.
  6. Naming kids after favorite movie stars, world leaders, celebrities and athletes. Strange enough I was named this way as in the year I was born, a certain Malaysian sprinter won some gold medal for the first time hence my first name was named after her, alas, I ain't no athlete, sorry Dad! (sorry cannot reveal name here ya *wink*) In fact, my dad was on standby to name me Maradona if I was a boy *thank God no*
  7. The Arts; this is quite unique and covers the world of arts and theater,  (e,g, Shakespeare, my favorite!), books, music and the pseudo-reality world. I know someone who chose Elvish names for his kids and the names are quite interesting and unique. But beware though, to call your kid Demetrius, Frodo or Gandalf may have lasting damaging effects.
  8. Going green; this may have risen out of the seventies Hippie-era where people started naming their kids Crystal, Valley, River, Rain, Holiday, Marijuana and the like *haha*
  9. Going crazy: I'm not a big fan of quirky names like Apple, Dodo, Ditzy etc.
  10. Going ethnic: names in Sanskrit, Hebrew, ancestral languages can be interesting if done right.
So how did we name our Baby? Here are the criteria which formed the parameters we worked around; a process I'm happy to share:

Start with Elimination.
  • Firstly, eliminate names of all your friends, siblings, frenemies, ex-partners and their spouses, siblings and kids. How many of you have at least two 'Jennys', three 'Stephanies' and five 'Johns' in your phonebook?
  • Eliminate unisex names; I'm so sorry but ambiguous unisex names are way too risky for many reasons. So as much as I know and love several Jamies and Justins we'd rather not have the kid start life without a gender specific name, identity crisis abounds badly enough already, so this is one issue we can do without. 
  • Eliminate names given to pets in the past and present!
  • Eliminate cartoon characters (Betty, Bob, Barbie, Thomas), fast food chains (Wendy's) and popular brand names (Armani, Carter, Gucci)
  • Eliminate pretentious foreign names! I know of a certain Chinese-educated person who is painfully 'Ah-Beng' in every sense of the word calling himself 'Pierre' *vomit*choke*vomit* And please, Chinese girls (probably never been to Japan and has no Japanese roots whatsoever) calling themselves Yoko, Yuki and Hayoko etc is like a big bad joke.
Factor in Phonetics
  • Names should have a nice ring or melody to it. This applies specifically to synchronizing first and second names with surnames and also Chinese names. Example, Harry or Dick with Chinese surnames Kok and Long is a major NO! Virginia with surname Tai may sound like 'Large Vagina' when spoken in a Chinese slang. So be culturally sensitive ok!
  • For Chinese names, the way it's being spelt and the dialect that is chosen to be 'romanized' is absolutely crucial. Example, my name in Cantonese when romanized sounds like "Shit Lin" (serious) and in Mandarin when romanized sounds like "Xue Lian". I wished they romanized it in Mandarin but then my surname would have to change and the result would be "Zhiang Xue Lian" and we can't be having different dialects in ONE name!
Factor in point #5 as we are after all believers, so that comes into play.
  • A Bliblical touch would be nice to remind the kid of a higher calling.
  • A noble Biblical name with a strong meaning also helps the child identify himself with that personality. I know this is true because I've seen alot and my dear Hubby himself is rather proud to be associated with the great apostle of the New Testament which is his namesake. But then again some great Biblical names are way too common e.g. David.
  • But be careful though, calling your son Israel (a great name indeed) in this country may evoke some unpleasant sentiments.
Minus any hint of corny-ness and cheesy-ness
  • For example;  it would be the height of cheesy-ness to name your kids Burt and Elmo, seriously. No no also for Athos, Porthos & Aramis, tsk tsk!
  • And while Mary and Martha are inspiring Bible characters, to name your daughters such would fall into the realm of corny-cuteness. And how many sisters do know named Grace & Joyce? At least one in every church I've been to!  Lovely names no doubt, but can you say "common"???
Factor in point #6  
  • While we shall not deliberately name the child after questionable celebrities, do scan and see if there are world famous (or infamous) personalities sporting the name we have in mind so at least it's not entirely offensive, laughable or downright disasterous.
  • So please think carefully before naming your child Adolph or Napoleon. Or Paris, Nicole and Tyra. It would be quite safe to just google the name and see what comes out, you never know; the name you chose may be one of a wanted serial killer or a Nobel prize winner for inventing the ultimate hand-held solar-powered vibrator.
Make it unique; or better yet or lace the name with greatness for boys and beauty for girls.
  • I personally like weighty names that are a little complicated, long and strikes a chord of rhyme and awe with people. Example for boys; Maximus, Constantine, Emmanuel, Sebastian etc.
  • For girls; genteel beauty with a classic touch is something I personally like; names like Rose, Lily, Victoria are not only rare in our era, they are ever-green.
Think of possible nicknames / short-forms
  • Kids and adults alike can be cruel enough to spin off all sorts of weird and wicked nicknames from the chosen name, so try and nickname-proof it, scan through various languages and dialects as well.
  • Some names comes with generic short-forms that are widely used, example, while Richard represents the greatness of English kings, no one can stop kids calling Richard a Dick-head in school.
  • Also, a name should not be a short-form, but the complete name should be spelt out. This is just an idiosyncrasy of mine. Example, it should not be Bart officially, it should be Bartholomew and then Bart for short, likewise it's not Max in your ID, but Maximus or Maximilian and then call him Max for short.
And now to the final result *drumroll* we have decided on:

Lucas Emmanuel

Lucas - of Greek Biblical origin, a variant of Luke, a physician and writer. Also means to "illuminate" or "bring light". This name bears our hopes and desires that our son will light up our lives and lives that he will touch; "Light of the world and salt of the earth" (Reference: Biblical Baby Names & My Baby Name)

Emmanuel - Hebrew for "God is with us", a tribute to the good Lord for being ever faithful, and being so good to bless us with a son, and in turn may our son always keep the Lord close to him and walk with Him all his life. A heavy name but not too severe as a second name.

As for the Chinese name; the grandparents are not imposing any guidelines and they have zero preferences. So we'll see if we're moved to create one or not. I would love the Chinese characters to have the meaning of JOY and INTEGRITY; two essential virtues to lead a happy and contented life.

So there you have it; Baby's name and how we came about it!


beetrice said...

phonetics and pronunciation are definitely a BIG thing to consider - i love my name now, since it's pretty unique...but having a name like that in a predominantly chinese society just CALLS for horrible variations. only my angmoh music examiners got it right until about 10 years ago... :p

that said, lucas emmanuel is a lovely choice. :D

HobbiT said...

Oh, I'm so glad u guys settled on Emmanuel! =D

I know it's kinda heavy, but it does sound nicer. ;)

almost there!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Shortcake said...

Bee - Your name is lovely; you're the only Beatrice I know so it's totally unique! I'm not surprised our local peeps can't pronounce it right. I don't have this problem is cos my name sounds Malay and half the time I get the Chinese asking me "Why do you have a Malay name?" It irks me to no end.

Hobbit - Thanks sweetie, the daddy and my side of the family seem to like 'Emmanuel' more versus the other option, we're loving it and hope Lucas will love it too :)