culture/multiculturalism · Hispanics/Latinos · news

A Rose by any other name…

Maybe it was easier when we gave the kids good Spanish Catholic names?

Shakespeare said a rose by another other name would smell as sweet. He hadn’t met any Dominicans.
Dominicans are notorious for making up names that are fabulously unpronounceable to the American monolingual crowd. Before I was Aliza, I had a beautiful name that rolled off the tongue, a transmutation of my parents’ names and initials. But it stopped sounding so graceful when I got to elementary school where it was butchered time and time again (and frequently got me marked absent) until I finally changed it to Aliza after converting to Judaism. (By the way it’s Ahh-leee-zah, not Eliza Doolittle. See, sometimes, you can’t win either way.)

My little sister followed suit by changing her name, too. My parents hadn’t realized that the name they had given her, however cleverly misspelled, was the pupal stage for butterflies. Unfortunately, for my sister, her friends realized this during a class science experiment. She changed her name to something rather boring sounding but in keeping with Dominican tradition, spelled rather creatively.

But apparently, Dominican names have gotten so bizarre lately that The LA Times had to write about it in a piece called “Dear Pineapple?’ ‘Dummy Ruiz?’ Dominican Republic considers banning bizarre names”. A judge is trying to hard to ban names that glorify car brands, drugs, cartoon characters and even body parts (someone named their child “Breast” in Spanish). Is this an infringement of civil liberties or just protection against child abuse? Ask Dear Pineapple and her friends, Mazda Altagracia, and, of course, Dummy Ruiz.

10 thoughts on “A Rose by any other name…

  1. Sergeant Jose, my roomate in Iraq is Dominican and his first name Wellington sounded a bit opulent, and he jokes about being descended of some British gentry, but now that makes more sense to me, and Wellington is pretty tame compared to pineapple, Mazda, Dummy, and what next La Quinta Inn?


  2. Man I’m really curious as to what your name was.

    Once I started going by my Jewish name (Elisheva) everyone told me not to legally change my name because “people will butcher it.” But honestly my legal name (Elyse) seems to have over 20 possible pronounciations…


  3. Hmm, La Quinta Inn? You know that sounds doable. Le7, if you go to earlier posts, you will see my former first name which I did change legally. I also changed my last name. I wanted something simple like Rose (Ah, Aliza Rose) but my husband and his friends wanted something meaningful and tongue-twisting. Ah.


  4. i grew up being called “Tofu” and “Tokyo” (don’t ask me why) by the boys in my class because they thought my (Hebrew) given name was so weird. yet i’m glad my parents gave me it, it made me a stronger person with more of a Jewish identity.

    still, i’m glad my name wasn’t pineapple or lexus.


  5. Aliza, this is a great article! Thanks so much for the information on Dominican names, a culture I wasn’t too familiar with before I started reading your blog.

    I suppose I got off relatively easy with Victoria, which my parents chose in Russia, even though they didn’t know we’d be immigrating to an English-speaking country where my name would be easy to pronounce. My dad’s original hunch was to name me Svyetlana, a very popular Russian name which means “she of light,” (kind of like Orit) but obivously unpronouncable in English. In fact, one Russian Jewish friend Svetlana actually changed her name to Orit to spare herself.


  6. My cousin told me today at my great-grandmother’s 97th birthday that even him with his American name was not spared. When he goes to the Dominican Republic, no one can pronounce it so it gets butchered there. Again, sometimes you can’t win!


  7. Having a living great grandmother is impressive, especially at your age. If my grandmother was alive, she’d be 98.

    and a funny side note about Wellington is that he gave himself the nickname Papacullo.


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