Monday, June 15, 2009

What should we call it?

Picking the name for your baby is one of the first big decisions for expecting parents.  After all, what you call your child will play a key role in your progeny's personal development.  One only needs to listen to the Johnny Cash song "A Boy Called Sue" to know that.  And, while coming to an agreement is never easy, having parents from different countries who speak different languages presents new set of interesting complications. 

For example in Spain, there's the tradition of naming your child after religious figures or situations.  In fact kids here not only celebrate their birthday, but also the day of the saint or religious holiday that they're named after.  So, other than the various Virgins who serve as inspiration for such girls' names as Macarena (yes, like the song) or Mercedes (like the car), there is also the option of: Concepción Inmaculada (the Immaculate Conception), Ascensión/Asunción (the ascension) and Dolores (pains as in the Friday of Pain), while boys' names often combine biblical personalities such as Jose Maria (Joseph Mary) or Juan Miguel (John Michael) or Juan Jose (John Joseph), which are in turn shortened and pronounced Josema (Hose-emma), Juanmi (Who-an-me), and Juanjo (Who-an-hoe) respectively.  All of which is perfectly normal in a country where it's also not unusual to use the same name for your child that you and your father or mother have, but imagine if your kid spent any time in either the states or the U.K. 

Of course, if you decide to give your offspring an English name, you can expect Spaniards to quickly find their equivalent, making it moot.  In other words George becomes Jorge (Whore-hey), Josephine-Josefina (Hose-effeena) and  James-Jaime (High-may) whether you like it or not.  And if you elect a shortened version of a traditional name like say Joe, then you run the risk of Spanish kids calling him "Fuck" like in "Joé que calor" (fuck it's hot).  Which isn't to say there aren't Spanish kids with English names like Jenifer, Jonatan, Kevin, the problem is that they carry with them the stereotype similar to being from the Valley in L.A. or Essex in the U.K. if you know what I mean.

Then, there's the whole question of pronunciation.  Any English name with a "J" will give Spanish people fits because it doesn't exist so you can forget names like Jeffrey or Josh for a boy or Jane for a girl, while the English desire to combine vowel sounds make Spanish names like Mireia or Iago a nightmare for those relatives not from Spain.

So with seemingly eighty percent of Spanish and English names eliminated, you're left with a smaller pool to argue over with your partner.  But be careful: because even when you finally decide on a name, you have to make sure that it passes with the Spanish bureaucracy who have been known to refuse Sam and Katie due to them being shortened versions of Samuel and Katherine, and thus not allowed.

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