Duana Names: Cultural Inheritance? Or Inherited Significance?

Duana Posted by Duana at June 30, 2017 20:09:33 June 30, 2017 20:09:33

Hi Duana,

I'm due with my first at the end of June. We just found out we're having a boy, and of course we only had a (perfect!) girl's name picked out.

For background, my husband is Belgian and I am American. I am biracial (Latina and white) and thus we want our child's name to be pronounceable and sound nice (not always the same thing) in French, English, and Spanish. However, for immigration/travel reasons, we're giving our kid a longish hyphenated last name, and our names are very English-Dutch sounding. We'd like the name to "go" with our blended name and are leaning towards shorter names to balance the long last name. (We're not going to even start thinking about middle name(s) until we have some first names narrowed down!) Finally, we're currently living in Europe but will probably end up in the U.K. or U.S. for the long term.

For some context, I struggled with my biracial identity at times growing up (and honestly, still do), and it always helped that my name could be easily pronounced in both English and Spanish. Both sides of my family made it their own, and in turn I think it helped me relate to and reconcile my two very different families. I want to pass this on to my son, even if he'll probably have his own identity struggles. While I love a lot of more traditional Spanish and Mexican names, my husband feels uneasy "claiming" a heritage that isn't his own (he's white). I, on the other hand, don't want to unwittingly erase my kid's francophone heritage, especially as we'll be raising him in English and French from the get-go.

I really like the following names: Léo, Diego, Felix, Jacques, and Luc. My husband really likes Cassian. We want to meet him before we choose his name, and I'm afraid we're missing some really good names for our list! We're not too worried about popularity as the more popular names tend to work well across multiple languages, but we're also open to more unusual/original names.

Thank you in advance if you get to my letter! I love your column and am really excited to have a chance to write in!

P.S. If it helps, we were in love with the name Isabel Josephine (to be shorted to Zazie) for a girl. I'm reserving it for any future kids, but I don't want to plan on the names "going together" because I can't predict what the future may bring.

___

Wait a second, what has happened to make you so wise in your first time out on the name train? This is entirely too reasonable and thought out, please advise if I've read this wrong.

Okay, so I'm long-weekend-punchy, but I'm into your choices and I especially love that you're open about not knowing what's coming in the future, because who does?!

But I also hear you on the 'popularity' front. Or, at least, I think I do. One of the things that's interesting in non-English names is that I'm never sure where the trends are landing, even when I have lists of what's popular. That is, I can't always parse which things are riding waves and which are just generally popular names. In your list, Luc and Jacques and Felix and Leo and Diego are all very useable right now in the formats you've written them, and in English I can note that Luke and Jack and Leo and Felix are enjoying upswings on their particular popularity peaks, but while Diego is probably up in English-speaking countries relative to where it has been, David, markedly, isn't.

It's complicated. I love the names you have on your list, including Cassian, which appears in my extended family and is reviled by plenty of that same family, inexplicably. I think it's great. I don't feel, in a family as culturally rich - or at least, recent -- as yours, that anything is being 'stolen' or co-opted; instead I feel like there's much, much more that's open to you...

But obviously, you don't need me to tell you about something like Artur being totally ready for a comeback, or Gaston or Etienne -- even though I think they cross all of your cultural barriers. I do think you might want to think about names that have been out of the mainstream to feel like you're considering everything, like Andres or Elan or Gilles or even something like Laurent. That is, if you feel like you're in an unusual place or not unusual enough, what are once very place-specific names that now feel global? Ivan? Thibault? I'm not sure, given that you listed five names and said your husband only had one, whether I'm not supposed to side with him, but have you thought about Ossian?

My senses (and the due date you put in your subject heading) tell me you're making this decision right about ...now. Will you let us know?!?

Photos:
iStock/ Getty Images

Tags: Name Nerd
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