culture/multiculturalism · Hispanics/Latinos · Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism · names

Baby Names

I’ve already picked out my baby names.

No, the babies haven’t actually been conceived yet, it’s something my sisters and I have been doing since we were little kids. We used to go through our baby names book and pick out names for our imaginary children. There was even a period where my dolls were all given Biblical names (Benjamin, Jeremiah) and later, during my Greek myths phase, where I named them all after Greek gods and goddesses. I had a Russian phase, too.
Because my husband’s Ashkenazi (Eastern-European), the kind of Jews who name children after their dead relatives (that really sounded weird when I heard about this in college), I combed through his family tree looking for names. (Sephardic Jews, I’ve been told, name their children after relatives who are alive, which is why one extended family I met all had the same names.)
After shaking the family tree, I came up pretty short on baby girl names…especially since for me, it’s important that the names can be pronounced by my Spanish-only relatives, some of which already have trouble with my husband’s Hebrew name and use his English name instead.
I remember being jealous Chinese friends had an English name and a Chinese name but my husband has always found it annoying that his birth certificate says one name but he goes by another. I read somewhere recently that some Asians have complained that their birth certificates and driver’s licenses can get kind of crowded with all those names.
(And anyone who remembers that Freddie Prinze Jr. is half-Puerto Rican with Hungarian Jewish ancestry to boot, and married to Jewess Sarah Michelle Gellar and beyond excited about his new Jewtina daughter, Charlotte Grace Prinze and her “plain” name, will laugh along with his remark in People Magazine that us Latinos are well-versed in giving their children too many names–for the record, I am thoroughly displeased that I only have one last name, unlike my cousins in the Dominican Republic.)
Anyway, so the story goes…what kept Jews from losing their identities in Egypt was their names, their language and their distinctive dress. Lucky for me, some Jewish names are actually commonly used Dominican names–I’ve met more than one Dominican male named Israel and when my Dad met my husband and introduced us to my half-sister, he boasted that her name, Eliana, is a Jewish name.
Also check out:
Jewschool making fun African American names (Check out my comments and those of others who noted that poking fun at African Americans, “Oh, aren’t their names funny? Teehee, teehee” is racist. I wonder how they would feel about me mocking Jewish names?)
Jezebel on why “Latin & Hispanic Names: ‘Doomed’ (Oh no! Perhaps I should name my first born-hasn’t-yet-been-conceived son Jose after all!)

“Hotel owner tells Hispanic workers to change names” (Yeah, also racist!)

And also, my piece on the history behind my name (and many name changes): Every name has a story
I should note that I made fun of the name Britney the other day and that’s when I realized that starting a conversation with “What kind of name is…?” generally only leads to racism or otherwise insensitive comments. In college, my husband’s new roommate asked him, “What kind of name is…(insert Hebrew name here)?” And my husband replied, “Well, what kind of name is…(insert Japanese name here)?”
We should all respect each other’s names and the cultural pride they represent but it’s not always easy. This one time, I tutored a Filipina girl whose name was Maricon, a derogatory word for homosexuals in Spanish. It was a rough tutoring section. I thought that was bad until a public school teacher commented she had once taught a student named “Vagina.”

3 thoughts on “Baby Names

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