First impressions, ethnic associations, nicknames... help!

What are your first impressions of these names:

  • Elena
  • Beatriz

Calliope

I'm wondering if you saw a girl/woman with dark hair and olive complexion who had one of those names (okay, obviously not Calliope but Elena or Beatriz), would you assume she spoke Spanish? 

Also, is Calliope destined to a life of "what in the world name is that?" reactions? I have one friend here who keeps saying "Collide-apee"- is she the exception or the rule?

Any other first impresisons on those names? Do you have a favorite? Would you use a nickname? 

Thanks!!

Replies

1
February 4, 2018 11:35 PM

Elena is pretty without being frilly-- I like it. There's a test that we bring up here with girls' names-- could you imagine a Supreme Court justice named X?-- which Elena obviously passes with flying colors. Great crossover name too, since it's a common name in plenty of languages. Elena nets you the nn Ellie which is very en vogue, although the Elenas I've known always used their full names.

Beatriz is my favorite of the three, with the caveat that I would be surprised to meet a young Beatriz who was not Latina. That's hardly a bad thing-- I get the vibe you're trying to avoid that, in which case Beatrice, Beatrix, and Bellatrix are all options, the latter of which open up Trixie as a nickname possibility.

Calliope is a beautiful (if kinda out-there) name, but only if you're pronouncing it right. If your heart is really with it, go for it, but I will dutifully note alternatives-- Callisto and Cassandra both have the Greek mythology tie-in and the same initial syllable, while Penelope has the same unique ending. None of these names have the potential pronunciation issues, and they're relatively familiar.

2
February 5, 2018 2:13 AM

I am a bit confused as to what you are aimiing for.  If you want a clearly Latina name, Beatriz is most vividly that.  I know several non-Latinas named Elena (although sometimes spelled differently) and that is more ambiguous.  Then again, since Beatriz is pronounced very much like Beatrice the difference is simply spelling flair.  As to assumptions re: Spanish speaking, for me that's a last name marker much more than a first name that is used widely beyond Spanish-speaking circles.

Calliope is very pretty.  I know a little one and there are problems beyond occasional spelling stumbles which are not a big deal.

Which name do you like best?  There are no deal-breaker issues that I see here.

 

3
February 5, 2018 3:24 AM

Elena - I know an Elena and she is a young Australian girl and fair skin and light brown hair - nice name

Beatriz - sounds a little more Spanish,  Beatrix wouldnt though,  prefer Beatrix or Beatrice

Calliope - nice

 

I like them in this order Elena, Calliope, Beatriz

4
February 5, 2018 6:43 AM

The only one that I would definitely assume spoke Spanish (or had that heritage) is Beatriz. Calliope I certainly don't get that impression from, and Elena is very international.

I think Calliope is likely to get a lot of first time pronunciation mistakes, but there's nothing inherently difficult to say about it, as it starts with common name Callie and also echoes well-known sounds in Penelope.

I think they are all pretty, adaptable and usuable options.

5
February 5, 2018 9:59 AM

Isn't Calliope /kuh-LIE-uh-pee/ ("lie" the word that rhymes with "pie" and "my" and "guy")?

6
February 5, 2018 11:55 AM

Hah! If it is I take it back that it's not inherently hard to pronounce. I still think it would be fairly easy to teach though...

7
February 6, 2018 9:28 PM

The Kalliope I know is from Greece and says her name kal-ee-O-pee.

8
February 5, 2018 11:32 AM

Elena is the least unexpected to me; I've known several, in different age groups and ethnic groups (some with that spelling, some with variants).

Beatriz looks Spanish to me, but not particularly LatinX. I might guess that the parents wanted to make a nod to Spanish heritage, but not necessarily that Beatriz herself spoke Spanish. Absent any compelling namesake or cultural reasons, I like it better than Beatrice, not quite as much as Beatrix, but like them all quite well.

Calliope is a name that still sounds silly to me. I know I'm in a minority there. I associate it with the circus instrument and the goofy 1980s soap opera character. Like Luna (another goofy 1980s soap opera character), I know that the "ditzy,  flighty, new-agey" associations of the name are completely absent for younger folks, and I can appreciate the Classical associations and nickname potential. I don't see why it should cause any more confusion than many other names nowadays (honestly, people can get confused about just about any name. I'm a spelling-variant of Megan, and had a neighbor who honestly thought my parents had named me Maggot when he first heard the name.)

As a dark-haired, olive-complexioned person of ambiguous ethnicity, I will say that in my experience people's assumptions are much more situation-based than name-based. Most of the times that people have assumed I would speak Spanish it was because I was either in a place where many folks spoke Spanish, or because I had said a few words of Spanish for some reason (from the very few words that I know). When it comes to names, people tend to see what they expect; I have an Irish-ized Welsh first name and a Japanese last name, and people can twist that combination to suit whatever meets their expectations/hopes. Of course, if your surname is something like Garcia-Rodriguez ymmv ;).

9
February 5, 2018 12:16 PM

I would not assume an Elena or Beatriz is Spanish speaking.  However, I wouldn't be surprised if either of them did.  

I don't think Calliope is a "what in the world" kind of name, but I do think most people will find it more surprising than your other choices.  As for your friend, I must admit I assume she is being a little intentionally rude.  The name clearly should not sound like "collide."   If people do struggle with it, you can always use Penelope as a guide. 

Elena & Beatriz both strike me as pretty classic names.  I'd say they both travel well in that I wouldn't be overly surprised to meet someone of just about any ethnicity with one of them.  I don't think I'd go out of my way to nickname Elena, but I wouldn't be opposed if one happened organically.  I would probably shorten Beatriz to Bea, even if only occassionally.

Calliope strikes me as much more hippy/free-spirited.  My primary association is the same soap opera character nedibles mentioned, so people without that association might not feel that way.  I think Callie would be a cute nickname, and might help if she finds she doesn't like occassionaly offering guidance/explaining her name.  It could also be helpful if she ends up preferring something a bit less free-spirited/unusual.

10
By EVie
February 5, 2018 1:20 PM

Wow, a lot of people asking about Elena in the past few days. I think this is the third time I've commented on it recently... so yeah, that's my name, and it's not just Spanish, it's used widely across Europe (with some variations in pronunciation). My own family is Italian. No one has ever assumed I speak Spanish (I don't). Granted, I am fair and blue-eyed with light brown hair, but still, I think people look for other cues -- accent, surname. And the worst that happens is she says sorry, I don't speak Spanish, and that's that. It's definitely not cultural appropriation, if that's what you're concerned about -- it's used too widely to "belong" to any one culture. My family usually just drop the first syllable from my name for a nickname, but I don't use a nickname otherwise. If I could go back to high school or college, I would probably try out going by Ellie, just because I sometimes wish I had a less formal-sounding option. But I'd rather have just a formal name than just an informal one any day.

Beatriz reads more strongly Spanish to me, as I'm not aware of any other culture that uses that spelling, but I still don't think I would make assumptions about someone speaking the language. I'm not sure I would choose that spelling unless I wanted to deliberately invoke a Spanish feel, though, since Beatrice and Beatrix are such close alternatives and more international. Beatrix could be English, German or Dutch; Beatrice could be English, Italian, French or Swedish. 

I love Calliope, and I don't think it's that outlandish at all. Do they not teach any Greek mythology in schools these days? One of the Nine Muses, mother of Orpheus? She's really not that obscure a figure. 

I feel like impressions of these names would probably depend a lot on your social circles. College-educated people accustomed to diversity would probably be less surprised or likely to make assumptions than people from more homogeneous and less educated communities.

11
February 5, 2018 3:19 PM

You guys are awesome! This dialogue is definitely what I was hoping for when I posted. I know one person saying "I'm confused by what you're going for." Well, our situation is fairly unique... 

We have been in an adoption process in a Latin American country for years now. And we were finally officially matched!!  This little one will be getting a new first name from us, her new family. We will be keeping part of her existing double barrelled first as her middle - Celeste. 

I'm in crunch mode now as we have to know her name before we travel (or within the first week of arriving in country), which is due to happen in a few weeks. Since we've been on this journey a while, we've been through list after list of names. I think I've "listed" myself into parallysis. 

Calliope surfaced out of no where and immediate felt right! Little One isn't speaking yet (she has some delays) and the name Calliope fits our hopes and prayers for her perfectly. But I have icky feelings about giving a child with her herritiage a name that is so decidely not Latina. She will have a tough time in life processding her identify as she balances cultural herritage with our white, rural community. (We have other internationally adopted children. This isn't a new road for us.)

That leads to Beatriz. Also an incredible meaning for an adopted child!! But I wonder, if I give her a decidedly Latina name, might there may be an assumption or pressure for her fully embrace being Latina, language and all? I'd prefer she be free to identify however she chooses. I hope that makes sense. 

So we have Elena. A more ethnically ambiguous name that moves freely in and out of Latin America. It's lovely, and my husband's current favorite. Too be honest, it just feels too expected to me... maybe even a little boring compared to my usual taste. And the meaning is also lovely, but nothing specifically fitting for us. It feels like a compromise name? I prefer Lena, but I would think of her as lay-na and I know everyone would say leh-na or lee-na and I just hate to do that to her. I also enjoy Laney (I think? still chewing on it), so maybe she is Elena and could go by Laney? Sigh, I just can't decide.

 

I guess I'm stuck with "safe" vs. "risky." That's how I'm feeling anyway. I'll take all feedback!! And other suggestions! I seriously need help. 

 

Some other names we've considered (many DH likes but I don't or vice versa):

Lucia/ Lucy
Lydia/ Lidia/ Lydie
Ruby
Viviane
Talia/ Tahlia/ Thalia
Lilia
Ramona
Iris

 

 

12
By EVie
February 5, 2018 3:38 PM

Yeah, people do say Leena or Lenna sometimes (I use the same pronunciation you want), but they do that with the full name, too. It's mildly annoying, but not the end of the world, and given the Supreme Court Justice and how popular the name is getting, the pronunciation mistakes are notably less frequent than they used to be. Some of my friends called me Laney at one point when I was in school, but it was rarely written out so I never firmly established a spelling (I would probably choose the German form Leni, even though it's less intuitive for English speakers). So yes, you could definitely do Elena nn Lena or Leni/Laney/Lainie etc. whatever spelling you want without issue. It *is* pretty trendy -- liquid name starting with El-, and the nickname form is a raindrop name. And at the highest it's ever been in terms of popularity -- last year it broke the top 100 for the first time ever (this is weird for me, as I've always thought of my name as moderately unusual). But I think maybe for an internationally adopted child, a recognizable and popular name is more of an advantage than a liability. 

To be clear, I'm not trying to talk you into Elena, just share my experience so you can make an informed decision. But it does seem like a good solution for you, and the portability has been one of its major advantages for me. My personal favorite Spanish/English crossover names are Maribel and Mariel. 

13
February 5, 2018 3:45 PM

I LOVE Maribel... but I basically used it already. My bio daughter is Mabel! Haha

14
By mk
February 5, 2018 4:46 PM

Elena does sound like a good option for what you want.

Congratulations!

15
February 5, 2018 9:20 PM

Congratulations on your soon-to-be daughter!  What an exciting time!

 

Dr. Calliope Torres, played by Sara Ramirez, was a major character on Grey's Anatomy for a while.  That's a far more current pop culture reference than the '80s soap others have mentioned. :)  So perhaps the name does have somewhat of a Latina association for many fans of the show (the mothers of your children's friends)?

 

Beatriz sort of comes across to me like you intentionally tried to choose a name from her culture rather than your own... which kind of feels othering??  I know that's not your intent at all.  But I also get the other side of it, that you don't want a name solely from your culture and not the one she comes from!  Elena is a really nice bridge between the two.  I'm pretty sure this entire paragraph was not helpful at all. :D

16
February 6, 2018 3:29 AM

I think Calliope would be nice, as would Elena,  Beatrice or Beatrix would be nice

 

Lucy/Lucinda would be nice,  Ruby and Vivienne would be lovely too

 

what about Alicia, Calista, Camilla, Amaya, Anna, Cassandra, Clara, Clarissa, Eliana, Elodia, Eloosa. Emelina, Felicia, Gabriella, Jacinta, Jordana, Julia, Lara, Laura, Laurita, Leandra, Leticia, Liliana, Luisa, Natalia, Renata, Rosa, Roxana, Selina, Soraya, Susannah, Tamara, Vera, Yolanda, Amy, Amanda, Ava, Emily, Juliana, Miranda, Stella, Arabella, Felicity, Kaia, Kara, Leona, Livia, Rose

17
February 5, 2018 3:58 PM

What do you all think of a Lydia going by Lydie?

18
February 5, 2018 5:51 PM

I think Lydia works well as a crossover name (spelled either Lydia or Lidia). If you want to maintain the pronunciation of the original name, however, I'd go with Liddie for the nickname. Lydie immediately brought to mind lidocaine as I read the 'ly' to rhyme with 'pie' and 'my'.

I also like Elena and think that it is a better choice than Calliope or Beatriz for the reasons you mention.

19
February 6, 2018 3:12 AM

I think that is nice,  and congratulations on your journey too - how exciting,  wishing you all the best

20
February 6, 2018 1:11 AM

Alba, Alexa, Arabella, Alma, Amalia, Aurora, Bianca, Cara, Clara, Daniella, Eliza, Emilia, Gia, Gabriella, Helena, Irena, Irene, Inez, Julianna, Kayla, Louisa, Lorena, Liliana, Leia, Lila, Luna, Lola, Lydia, Marina, Miranda, Mira, Mia, Monica, Maya, Nina, Naomi, Noelle, Odette, Paulina, Raina, Rosamund, Ramona, Stella, Simone, Serena, Sierra, Selena, Thalia, Theresa, Viola, Veronica, Vanessa, Victoria, Vera

21
February 6, 2018 3:06 AM

I think any of the names could come from most any culture. Yes, Elena would be my first guess if asked "which is Latina."

Truly, they are all fine names.

Like another poster, Callie from Grey's Anatomy is my pop culture reference. And seriously, do we have to "dumb down" and assume no one knows how to pronounce/spell Calliope? And can't we assume they can LEARN? 

Calliope is my favorite.

I do like Lydia. Liddie seems more of a pet name to me - shortened by one syllable/letter.

22
February 6, 2018 3:29 AM

I likely wouldn't assume someone with any of these names spoke Spanish, though I might think twice about Beatriz only because that's the Spanish spelling.

My daughter is Elena and she loves her name. She was named in honor of a dear friend Alena, who exclusively goes by Leni (lay-nee). One person, a pen pal, did ask my daughter if we were Spanish. No one else has brought it up, but my girl looks like Pippi Longstocking - not terribly Latina.

I encourage you to use the name you like the best, rather than choosing a Spanish one just because it's Spanish. You are already keeping one of her birth names to honor her heritage and I'm sure will educate her about it in other ways. 

Calliope is a name that could be a great fit or could be a headache, depending on the person wearing it. I'm familiar with the muse and the instrument but the only pop culture association I have is Calliope Day, daughter of Felicia Day, who was born last year. 

Lidia/Lydia is much like Beatriz/Beatrice or Elena for me, a lovely name with rich history that travels well in different languages. You can't go wrong with any of the names you've listed - so which one do you like best?

23
February 6, 2018 10:31 PM

Funny, my first pop-culture association with Calliope is the novel Middlesex. I'm not sure that's going to be a big deal, but I'm surprised no one's brought it up.

24
By EVie
February 7, 2018 11:53 AM

I'd forgotten about Middlesex until you mentioned it. It's a great novel, but it's a pretty highbrow reference, so I think the kind of people who would make the connection would probably also know the associations that pre-date it.

25
February 6, 2018 12:20 PM

With Calliope I might guess the girl was of Greek ancestry. In Greek it seems to be pronounced more like cal-ee-oh-pay, with more-or-less equal stress on all syllables, maybe slightly stronger stress on the oh (keep in mind this is from overhearing Greek people say the name, not from any actual authoritative access to Greek pronunciation rules). Collide-apee is pretty funny but I think most people will just pronounce it like the English word for the musical instrument (which is kind of annoying. I mean the music made by the instrument is pretty annoying). 

Beatriz with that spelling I might presume to be from a Spanish-speaking family. 

Elena could be just about anything. Greek, Spanish, maybe Russian. It strikes me as more international, but that's based on first impressions rather than knowledge. 

Edited to add that I'm sorry for some reason I didn't see all of the very helpful responses before posting mine. I guess my browser didn't load the page fully. I'm leaving my response as is even though it's a little behind the discussion.

 

 

26
February 7, 2018 3:36 AM

I'm usually all about "what do YOU like in a name," but I do have opinions and this is definitely one of those occasions!   Now that I see your whole scenario.... as you clearly already know, international adoptees navigate complicated identity questions in their lives, and it is important to acknowledge and nurture their heritage.  At the same time - and I grew up in a remote rural area myself - they can struggle with their own difference especially if raised in a setting with limited diversity.  For this reason I strongly vote for Elena, precisely because it is a Spanish name that is not exclusively Spanish, and so it embraces her heritage but also blends in seamlessly in a mostly non-Hispanic setting, i.e., her junior high school when feeling "different" may be most difficult for her.  I also think Elena is a beautiful name myself, definitely my favorite among your options!

A couple of other not-exclusively Spanish names are: Maria, Maya, Bianca, Martina, Silvia, Antonia, Carmen, Rosa, Flora, Eva, Isabel, Andrea, Gabriela....  but it sounds like your husband loves Elena, you like it a lot even though it's not your absolute #1 favorite, and it straddles a number of complicated issues very nicely.  Go for it!

27
February 7, 2018 12:49 AM

People have already covered Dr. Callie (Calliope) Torres, and Felicia Day's daughter. And classic mythology. The spelling isn't complicated. Anyone who can pronounce Sean or Thomas or Michaela can get Calliope.

 

Beatriz does sound very Spanish to me.  But in the way Katarina sounds German to my ears.The only person I can specifically  associate with the name is actor Stephanie Beatriz. She uses her middle name as a last name professionally.

 

I like almost all the names in the Helen family so am fond of Elena. Elena Gilbert is the main character in The Vampire Diaries TV show (based on a book series). She's fictional small town Virginia. 

28
February 7, 2018 7:33 PM

Beatriz is a name that I have only ever encountered on Latina women/girls (and also in Spain). It is a name that would surprise me to encounter on someone who didn't speak Spanish or hadn't grown up with a Latin@ cultural association. I suspect that I would have that surprise only because I have known fairly many Spanish-speaking women named Beatriz, though. If you are in rural white Americana, maybe your daughter wouldn't encounter many people who would have that prior knowledge about the name, though? Otherwise, people would probably just assume that Beatriz was her birth name, and that you kept it. As a grown up who meets people without her family around, she might either learn Spanish or she could simply offer a quick, "I was adopted by an Anglo family" explanation.  

Calliope is a beautiful name. I've heard it before in person on a small child and I was delighted, and did not hear it getting any other kinds of reactions. It fits right in with my local name trends while still being distinctive... I can see it being a bit more confusing in less adventurous naming territory, though, but the blending in nickname of Callie and the similarity to Penelope should I think avoid it being too weird. I do think that it might be a bit of an awkward fit on a person of color who is being raised in a white community, though... I'm envisioning potential conversations about "Are you Greek? No? So, are your adoptive parents? No?" 

Elena would be an excellent choice that blends in very smoothly in every situation, without any kind of burdens associated with it. I can also see why you're less excited about it -- while Elena is a fine name, I've been encountering throughout my life in women of all ages (some of whom are Latina, some of whom are WASPy, some of whom are immigrants from other parts of the world). So, it doesn't have the same surprise/wow factor as either Beatriz or Calliope... but I still think it's an excellent choice.