These times of ours

Jul 20th 2006

I recently read a newspaper article that summarized many of the complaints I hear about contemporary baby names. Too many parents are naming their kids after movie stars, or making up "weird" names without meanings. The new names are unfamiliar and impossible to pronounce. The traditional, beloved names of past generations seem to have disappeared overnight.

One woman quoted in the article, marveling over the names of her own nieces and nephews, said she was glad she didn't become a teacher: "I am struggling to pronounce the mere six 'weird' names, imagine my plight as a teacher calling out at least thirty odd such names everyday." A name expert claimed that parents today are determined to be unique and "believe that a name should have an identity as well as an ability to be exceptional among others."

And the author of the article wistfully concluded that the common, classic names of her youth were long gone. "Kusumas and Chandimas will never stand a chance with the present generation of Shanudhas and Sathsaranjanis."

Oh, did I mention that the article was from Sri Lanka?

This lifestyle piece in the Sri Lankan Sunday Observer was an uncanny mirror of attitudes in the United States. The details may differ -- celebrity names come from Bollywood rather than Hollywood, grandparents despair that names are selected without consulting astrological charts -- but the core concerns are the same. Some of the causes, too, sound the same to me. Globalization comes up again and again, from the cultural clout of the Indian entertainment industry to the possibility of migration to the West. Names, as usual, reflect the changing world around them.

A coda at the end of the article, though, puts the whole thing in perspective. Three terse paragraphs summarize 2000 years of Sri Lankan name history: from the short ethnic names of the early kingdom, to the later blending with Sanskrit, to 450 years of shifting European-based styles as first the Portuguese then the Dutch then the English ruled the country, to the past century's gradual ascension of Sinhalese names in a series of changing styles.

So those old, familiar names that are disappearing were often one-generation wonders themselves. In an ever-changing world, "traditional" is a relative term.

Comments

51
By Christiana (not verified)
August 11, 2006 7:50 PM

Kelly - I've always prefered the pronunciation AH-na for Anna. I just assumed people would require it to be spelled different in the US to make it sound different (Ana or whatever). Nice to know you get people to pronounce it your way without the unusual spelling.

52
By fawnbaker (not verified)
September 2, 2006 8:00 PM

What do you think of the name Sloan?

53
By Andrew (not verified)
October 5, 2006 2:33 PM

I've been second guessing my daughter's name since a few hours after we decided to name her. Her name is Alexa. My wife's favorite name is Emily, but in the end we decided it was too common. At this point I wish we had named her Emily.

Does anyone know someone who changed their baby's name? I'd appreciate some thoughts. Thanks.

54
By Terri (not verified)
December 8, 2006 6:23 PM

My son's name is River and when people insist that his name is to "weird", "feminine" or that I just made it up and it has no meaning I remind them that water is the one of the most powerful things on earth. It can move mountians and shape lives. I chose this "wierd" name because I believe that the meaning behind it should be a testiment to my love and faith in my child. That I believe he can accomplish anything he wants to gently and willingly he can carve his way in life. River is a powerful child and I would never change his name no matter how many pooh-poohs I get from my rather conservative friends and family.

55
By peter (not verified)
December 26, 2006 9:46 PM

I have no interest in multicultural names. That's trendy and stupid...only for American culture...it's a big world out there that doesny care about your desire to be multicultural. We have a new daughter and we are German descent. We will of course give her a beautiful german name.

56
By Tommy (not verified)
December 26, 2006 9:47 PM

Agreed...Heidi is a nice name

57
By ;; (not verified)
May 4, 2007 7:35 AM

oi

58
By valentine (not verified)
May 22, 2007 12:21 PM

Ok. Seriously, if you came looking for a name, get off your lazy butt- and search it, not everyone has to work around your needs, seriously.
And yes, i agree heidi is a gorgeous name.
What do people think about the name 'Veronica', my sister is naming her unborn child, and i think she needs input. Personally i believe that it's a nice name, i'm starting to like them with more sylibols(sp).

--sorry about my spelling i'm using one hand--Multi-tasking

59
By Sherry (not verified)
July 4, 2007 1:58 PM

Hi there-

I'm fascinated by baby names, I have been ever since I could remember. To pick a name that a human being will use for their ENTIRE life is SUCH a responsibility and challenge and gift!!! It's a little like playing God. I truly think a name can influence the child who has the name and those around that child. A unique name I think arouses curiosity about that person, and encourages a person to attempt to get to know them better and see what lies under this fabulously interesting name-shell - is the person's personality as interesting and does it match up to their name? It's almost a question of, is the person worthy of such a stand-out name? If they are, all the better. We named our son a unique first name, and family middle name that goes very well with the first name. He's the only one thus far we've met with the name, but I know there's others in the world with the name also, but it's nice for him to be able to label things at school with his first name only, HE loves his name as well!!

60
By Sherry (not verified)
July 4, 2007 2:09 PM

I also love a contradiction when naming a child. For instance, naming a baby girl who's caucasian Ebony, or an african american baby girl Ivory. I love boy names for girls. I love the name River - good choice!! I like names that are neither feminine or masculine, virtue names are great!! There was a question about the name Sloan, it's not a bad name, but it reminds me of Sylvester Stallone - I'm not particularly fond of it, but that's only my opinion. If you love it - go for it!! =) Names are a way to leave our preferences and mark in the world that will live on long after we're gone - there are not alot of things we can say that about!! No one in my family believes in naming a junior or a 2nd or 3rd, I think each child should be original - but that's just me!! I say - don't be influenced by strangers - do what YOU want and have those you love in your life influence your choices - its YOUR child!! Best of luck to all of you! =)

61
By Delite (not verified)
August 20, 2007 5:23 PM

My name is Delite. I was born in the late 60's but my parents were far from Hippies. I have met only 1 other delight in my 40+ years of existance and she was about 35 years older than me. I also know one other person with the middle name delight. I'm the only one with my spelling. Except for the group but even they added an E. Groove is in the heart.