Okay to give a baby a name that doesn't typically match ethnicity?

(77 Posts)
chesterberry Sat 29-Jun-13 22:50:13

I'm just wondering what people think about giving a baby a name which, whilst popular in other cultures/ countries, is not popular in your own?

I really like some typically Asian names - I love the name Zeeshan for a boy and it is my favourite name out of my shortlist by a mile but I have never met a boy who was not of Asian or Middle Eastern heritage being given the name.

For a girl I was trying to decide between Priya (Indian) and Sakura (Japanese) - I travelled Asia on my gap-year and all of the names on my list have some sentimental value for me, but when I told my parents my names they said I was being ridiculous to suggest 'such non-white names' for my child and would be setting him/her up for a lifetime of trying to explain why they weren't given a 'normal British' name.

This hadn't worried me but now I am starting to second guess myself and think maybe people will think it very strange to give my child a name which, when people first hear it, will make them assume s/he is going to be of a different heritage and that this could matter for my child.

Baby's father is not on the scene so decision is mine alone but really wondering what other people think - do you think it would be very unreasonable/unfair to give baby a name that, for his/her heritage, would seem very unusual to some? Or do you think that these names will become more popular outside of their cultures in a few years anyway as more people come to know and thus consider them for their children?

Would be really grateful for anyone's thoughts and opinions - I accept that whatever name I choose for my baby not everybody will like it and the important thing is to choose names I love, and I don't care if people think I am pretentious as the names genuinely hold a lot of meaning for me, I haven't just chosen them to be different, but I would hate to choose a name that would make my child's life in any way difficult when they start school etc.

Aw name choosing is fun, try not to stress, you'll find something perfect

TeWiSavesTheDay Sun 30-Jun-13 19:27:32

I was just going to say that grin tbh, if the father isn't going to be in the picture, your DC could always lie to avoid the "oh, no reason then?" Conversation.

I think Priya is lovely, not sure how you pronounce Zeeshan!

For what it's worth, I think "my mum travelled a lot and preferred the names in India/China" is good enough.

I did want to call my DD Neela (no reason, I just like it) or Aroha (for heritage reasons) but choose an English name eventually because I didn't want them to have to explain.

Sunnysummer Sun 30-Jun-13 20:01:35

LizTerrine - I suspect that we have met the same blonde blue-eyed Hiroko... And I agree that she is really not a fan of the foreign name thing!

nooka Sun 30-Jun-13 20:26:29

I've a very unusual name and it is pretty much always a subject of conversation when I meet someone for the first time. I really like my name so it's not that big a problem but for people who aren't so keen on their names it is a hassle to always have to talk about it. As a parent you'll have no idea as to which camp your child will fall into, or whether they will be OK about effectively justifying their name to every Tom, Dick and Harry they meet.

I'm not personally keen on taking distinctive names from other cultures where there is no connection, and where everyone will assume that the child is from that culture. It just seem unnecessary when there are so many other names to choose from. But then with many people choosing names purely for the sound/look, or making names up completely that might be becoming less and less of an issue.

wafflingworrier Sun 30-Jun-13 20:33:54

yes ppl will have the conversation that Freakonomics has said, but they would have a similar one even if u DID have a connection with india if u see what i mean? eg do you have family in india? yes i do she;s named after x family member.

i think all the names you have said sound great. i hope you have a safe pregnancy and congratulations!

LadyIsabellaWrotham Sun 30-Jun-13 20:34:09

I think you should print off oink's conversation, and get someone to read it through with you twenty times. If you're still happy with Zeeshan/Sakura after that then go for it.

bugsybill Mon 01-Jul-13 00:55:34

Good idea to rule out Sakura, I thought it was pronounced sack-cure-uk.

You know priya is so much more common, pronunciation issues won't happen as much. Also as so many 3rd-4th generation Indian families using Priya has made it much more 'British'. I also think Anjali is similar.

bugsybill Mon 01-Jul-13 00:57:48

Also I think the best way to avoid oinks conversation is to stop it as it starts by fibbing and saying 'its a family name'.

Hiroko could have been adopted for all we know smile

bugsybill Mon 01-Jul-13 01:01:54

Sack-cure-uh I meant

bugsybill Mon 01-Jul-13 01:05:12

Also if a child/adult really dislikes their name they can go by a nickname.

Hiroko could have chosen coco or rikki. You don't have to be a 'victim' of your name confused

sleepywombat Mon 01-Jul-13 06:38:58

I worked in a school with a primarily Muslim intake. In my class there were 3 British white caucasian children - Ayesha, Tariq (and Hattie)!

Also have friends Ravi & Sathya with no Indian connections (but parents were hippies) - surgeon and company manager respectively. Don't think that freakonomics thing applies nowadays - maybe in parts of the US but not in the UK. I would think some jobs would probably positively discriminate in favour of certain ethnic groups as they're often seen as harder workers!

I don't think it matters at all. Go for a name you like.

Quodlibet Mon 01-Jul-13 06:52:38

I was just thinking yesterday how it's odd that people often suggest Irish/Cornish/Scottish/Welsh baby names when there is no connection, and even Spanish/French, and that's never really questioned, but we are somehow all uncomfortable stepping outside our own ethnicity when it comes to pillaging names, even though there are millions and millions of lovely names out there!

I reckon it'll get more common OP, and you should call your child what you want.

LadyIsabellaWrotham Mon 01-Jul-13 07:11:24

I personally hate Celtic names for WASP babies too, and I think that the more obviously Welsh or Irish ones in particular do lay you open to oink's conversation.

But I realise that that's a purely personal preference.

MothershipG Mon 01-Jul-13 07:13:47

I think you should choose what you like - as long as you are confident the constant need to explain it won't start to get on your nerves!

Personally I love Welsh names, but despite being born there, I don't really have any family conection to Wales so I bottled it (especially as DH was like this - confused at the names I liked!) smile

SoupDragon Mon 01-Jul-13 07:15:47

I personally hate Celtic names for WASP babies too

Out of interest, how do you tell that they don't have Celtic origins? You can't tell by looking.

I think a name with sentimental value is fine - it has a reason behind it. TBH, it's fine even if you just like the name.

NeoMaxiZoomDweebie Mon 01-Jul-13 07:18:54

One of my children has a Spanish name. I liked it so that was that!

LadyIsabellaWrotham Mon 01-Jul-13 07:21:02

I don't know of course, but if you meet a baby Ruairidh for example it's natural to have the "Oh so are you Irish then?" conversation and I do do an inward hmm if the answer is "I just though it was nice". And of course on MN baby names threads it does come up. Just my personal issue.

mewkins Thu 04-Jul-13 22:44:30

I agree re. Depends on your location- probably in London no one would bat an eyelid. The more conservative an area you live in, the more it will stand out. That could be a good or bad thing, depending on how you look at it and also the temperament of your child I guess. I grew up with a distinctly non- British sounding surname and got constant questions about where it came from etc. It just confused people as I am white British. It gets tedious and people act like uou have made it up! However I was very shy as a child and didn't like standing out from y he crowd.

MoottonBun Thu 04-Jul-13 23:32:34

My DS has an African name and it's fairly obvious he doesn't have any African heritage. Like Oinkment, I have been asked about it a fair bit but it doesn't make me feel uncomfortable. So far I haven't encountered any adverse reactions but only compliments, and if questioned I just say we chose it because it's a beautiful name and we both loved it and there is also a link regarding the meaning (but not obvious to anyone else who doesn't know its meaning).
I get that when he's older he may face the same questions, but if anyone has a problem with it - such as the CV thing - then great, that's a positive for me too - who would want to associate with someone that would judge you on that basis or work for a company like that anyway? I think though unusual names are so much more widespread nowadays anyway it's not that big a deal.
Priya is gorgeous by the way.

lessonsintightropes Thu 04-Jul-13 23:37:10

I've got an unusual, Indonesian first name. Am most definitely white and northern! I have a lovely story about it though, much the same as your DC will have - I grew into it when I was about 13. I did resent DM for it for a few years when I was tiny but love it now and having such a unique name.

raisah Fri 05-Jul-13 04:12:06

Zeeshan is a strong Arabic name and often shortened to Zee. Lots in the muslim community give this name to their son but it does not represent an affiliation to a faith/ cultural group in a way that certain names do.

People are from all over the place & have different reasons / cultural reference points. For example, Shakira, Rihanna & Salma are classic Arabic girls names but also the names of two singers and a Hollywood actress. People don't think they are odd & wouldnt make the connection to the names being Arabic eventhough Salma & Shakira have Lebanese
Arabic heritage, its not obvious to outsiders.

Boys names such as Adam, Noah & all the old testament names are of ME / Hebrew heritage & used by all ethnicities so dont worry about calling your son Zeeshan.

Tryharder Fri 05-Jul-13 08:25:40

How depressing it would be if you didn't give your child an English sounding name because you were scared he wouldn't get a job interview. I don't care if some posters believe this to be correct or not; pandering to racism does not make it OK!

Lets hope that when the OP's baby is job hunting, attitudes have changed.

BangOn Fri 05-Jul-13 09:41:28

I thought the point Freakonomics was trying to make was that the correlation between names & life experiencr isn't always what you'f expect: who can foreget the tale of Winner & Loser?

Frontdoorstep Fri 05-Jul-13 10:32:19

I wouldn't particularly know that Zeeshan was an Asian name tbh, I would just think that the child had a unusual name (plenty of people have unusual names). Sakura does sound Japanese but not obviously so IMO and the same with Priya sounding Indian.

Do what's right for you regardless of what others think.

KateCroydon Fri 05-Jul-13 10:46:36

Go ahead - gorgeous names. The only thing I'd say (having grown up abroad with a v. English name) is that I would have liked a 'normal' middle name to fall back on when I couldn't be bothered to explain things. So Priya Rose Smith rather than Priya Smith.

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