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And yes, in regards to the Sakura thread, I, too, think that name is an appropriative choice for the same reasons EVie noted...but in my mind the oddness of that choice was compounded significantly by that particular poster's story behind it, with having wanted the name for the first child and so on. Seems like kind of bad juju for kid #1!
Thank you all, so much, for the thoughtful and nuanced discussion. I have some South Asian acquaintances but not good friends, which is why I'm hesitant to be the jerk who asks them to speak for their entire community :-) but I am curious whether, as with you, Kalmia, it would be surprising to them to hear the name and see a little white kid.
To reflect on some other musings Kalmia and other folks have expressed...this whole process has made me realize how culturally adaptable I want her to be, and sort of by extension how culturally rootless I feel...not in a bad way, to be honest, but more like, I understand better why I want this kid to have a global name. I am not the least bit practicing as a Jewish person, neither religiously nor "culturally," and yet I definitely feel out of the mainstream of sort of White-Christian-America (as, I think, does my husband, the son of immigrants), and I want this child to feel that difference, and feel comfortable wherever she may end up, and be open to all kinds of cultural experiences and expectations, and be able to easily put herself into others' shoes. I was also surprised to find (though I shouldn't have been, I guess) that I was not comfortable with the notion of my own visibility as her parent completely disappearing, which I was associating with the fact that she'd take my husband's name and mine nowhere to be found. Because of that too I wanted her first name, at least, to not be particularly Balkan, because then I feel completely disappeared—but not super mainstream American, either, because that doesn't seem fitting—and not Hebrew or Yiddish, because that'd be just weird, for me.
Anyway, I just heard this morning an interview with a YA author writing about an Indian family and the young protagonist's name was Nisha. Gah! :-)
Leila is actually a beautiful name and has the benefit of being global in use and in origin, with Hebrew one of its origins--but unfortunately it sounds really weird with the last name (way too many L's)!
Anyway, thanks very much, all of you, for all this interesting food for thought and perspective.
Thanks, you all. For more context, here is a LONG but very fascinating thread about name appropriation I found on another board...someone wanted to name their child Sakura ("cherry blossom" in Japanese) because she loved the name although she had no connection at all to Japan or Japanese language or culture, and what followed was a really interesting discussion about what does and does not constitute appropriation, and how important it is or is not to consider. https://offbeathome.com/baby-name-appropriation/
Different people do seem to define "appropriation" differently, and as some of you have pointed out, it's true that in this case there is nothing sacred, religious, or especially meaningful about the name. But many people define appropriation more broadly than that, as a person or entity of a dominant culture using themes, activities, and other cultural signifiers from a minority or oppressed culture without regard for or understanding of the original culture. That is more my concern-- sort of blithely adopting a cultural trope well known to another culture and clearly outside of my culture, just 'cuz it's pretty.
We recently decided on a name for our first baby, due in July. We chose a name that we arrived at through tossing around various similar names, trying out sounds with the last name, etc., and that my husband was acquainted with through work-related associates. Based on his experience and the sound of the name, we thought the name was pretty global (that is, versions of the name appear in various cultures). It sounds familiar to the American ear but is not common, it sounds lovely with the last name, and my husband's Balkan relatives wouldn't have a hard time pronouncing it. We've had a short list up on our kitchen cabinet for a while and this one rose to the top. Hooray! So last night I googled it, and it turns out it's a common South Asian name...apparently quite common, and pretty exclusively connected to the region. I had no idea of this—and it's not like we're isolated, we live in a giant metropolitan area and have been acquainted with plenty of South Asian people and enough aspects of South Asian culture to not be TOO ignorant...I thought.. Is it appropriation if we're not fetishizing the culture the name came from, but rather were taken by surprise by the clear association of the name with a specific set of cultures? Except--you know, now we do know. And I can certainly appreciate the argument that it really doesn't matter what our intent was, what matters is the effect on marginalized/formerly colonized groups, and here we are, about to name our half-Jewish half-Balkan daughter a common Indian name out of ignorance. After all, a definition of privilege is that you can do stuff others can't because it doesn't matter to you; you can afford to stay ignorant and not be affected at all.
The name is Nisha. I'm interested in your thoughts on this.