Sunday, September 01, 2013

The curse of the boy names

Here we go, with this pregnancy's post about names!

Why is it that I could easily, at this very moment, come up with half a dozen viable names for baby girls - even ones that Jeremy and I would agree on - but we can hardly scrape up ONE such name for a boy, let alone two?

To be fair, Jeremy and I haven't even had The Name Talk yet. Instead, we have a Google Doc entitled "a judgement-free zone to share name possibilities." Over the past few months, we've each contributed a few names to the list, but in keeping with the "judgement-free" theme, we have yet to get together to talk about them and really hammer out some possibilities.

I've invested in the newest edition of The Baby Name Wizard's book. I've exhausted the name-generating capabilities of Nymbler. I've asked my Emirati students (and a Kuwaiti co-worker) for name ideas. And yet. This child remains unnamed.

It occurs to me that perhaps we are asking too much of the universe. We want a name that works well in Arabic and English (either as a word or as a name). Either in that name or in the middle name, we would like to continue our tradition of some kind of geographical/cultural tribute, as with Damascus and Sonora (the girls' middle names). There is also a handed-down middle name from Jeremy's side of the family that needs to be considered.

And yes, there are plenty of names that work in English and Arabic, but honestly, I don't like most of them, or I am tired of them because they are commonly used by Arabs and Westerners around here who move between both worlds.

And yes, it seems like it should be easy to find a geographical tribute name that is awesome - just look at a map, right? But, the thing is, have you looked at a map of this region? There's really not much to go on. I have imposed a rule (that perhaps I need to relax) that any such name must be completely pronounceable in English, which rules out the obvious picks like Khalifa because it would drive me batty to hear it pronounced with a hard "k" all the time.

Oh, also, it can't start with an M. We did not purposely choose two M names for our girls, but if we chose an M name for this boy, that would be on purpose, by default, no matter what.

Yeah, gee, we're not asking for much, are we?

Does anyone have some words of wisdom to share? Or, dare I say it, suggestions??

35 comments:

Susanne said...

Oh, I've been wondering what you and Jeremy would name your son. I even thought, "I wonder what tribute-to-where-they-live name they will put in the middle, Dubai? Sharjah?"

Out of curiosity and so we can eliminate them, those over-used Arab/Western names are ...? The ones I tend to see from my few Western mom/Arab father friends are Adam, Noah, Gabriel, Zachary/Zachariah. Do you mean those?

I'm eager to hear what you decide on. Have the girls contributed their favorites? :)

Bridget said...

Yes, those plus Rayan (Ryan), Yusef (Joseph), etc. They are really nice names and maybe I haven't heard them all. But most days, it feels like I have.

Magdalena's choice for a name is Luke Skywalker or Anakin. Miriam wants something that starts with an S so the kids can be "M&Ms".

Yvonne Anderson said...

Obviously, Zayed is my number one pick. We love it. It's a perfect name to honor the region and easy to pronounce. Who cares if we just used it, it's awesome.

Sarah Familia said...

Tariq is by far my favorite Arabic name for boys. Too bad not one of the consonant sounds exists in English.

I seriously feel your pain with the boy names, though. Tony and I could not agree. We finally named Raj after our Indian Web developer, almost on a whim. And yes, it is unpronounceable in much of the world, as well as just being "weird" here. He has his middle name to fall back on, though, and he went by Dominique when we lived in Italy and Tunisia. He likes both of his names, and so far doesn't seem to be scarred by switching back and forth. So that is an option if you can't think of a name that works both places.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Boy names really are difficult to select. There are tons more female names, for one thing (partly because plenty of them have been stolen from the boy category), and it's acceptable for a girl to have a cute or witty name. Not so w/ boys. And a boy is more likely to be teased about a name in a negative way.

You surely know what my first pick would be, and for everyone else's benefit I'll say it out loud: George. It's the name of kings and presidents and saints (and now a prince), and it happens to be Daniel's middle name, my Dad's name, my gr-uncle, my gr-gr grandfather, and so on. I've always liked it and it does go well in every culture.

As for a geographic/Arab-y middle name, I haven't seen any besides Khalifa and Zayed that jump out at me.

Jeremy Palmer said...

Yeah this is tough. I suggested that we each choose one name and then fight for whether our choice is the first name or middle name. Bridget shot that idea down. Not sure what to do. Maybe I'll consult the stars.

Lyse said...

PLEASE NAME YOUR SON ANAKIN. That's amazing. My brother wanted to name me Calvin (after Calvin and Hobbes) if I was a boy, and I like to think if I was male, Calvin would have fit well.

Siblings have naming powers.

Tamara said...

This is my first public comment on your blog, although I've been following you for years! We named our son Elijah (Elias in Arabic), but call him Eli (Ali in Arabic). We figured he could choose which name he wanted to go by when he was older. Like you, we wanted something that went easily between both cultures, that was pronounceable from both sides and that honored my husband's family. Eli is a family name on my husband's side and Saint Elijah is highly revered in the Arab world, he's even named in the Koran. A plus for us since we are living in Beirut is that Elie is a very popular Lebanese name. We are very happy with our name choice and fits our little boy perfectly. Although to his credit, when asked his name, our poor son doesn't know whether to say his name is Eli, or Elie or Elias (So far, Elijah has only been used on official documents and by our German friends).

Liz Johnson said...

Hey I was going to suggest Elijah/Eli/Ali! Dangit. There went my one helpful suggestion. Elijah Khalifa, maybe? Then people in the US can still pronounce the first name and nobody has to know/butcher his middle name. :)

OR you could name him Khalifa and make everybody you know watch "Saudis in Audis" which makes it clear that "Saudis use 10W-KHHHHHHH."

I also like Ayman.

Jen said...

This is going to show my ignorance on the subject...but does Abraham (Abe?) work, culturally? I love that name.

Also, for place names, is there somewhere in one of your camping adventures that would work?

Kathy Haynie said...

So does this mean you're having a boy? (Maybe I missed the announcement?) If Jeremy is consulting the stars, would a name like Orion work? Maybe there's some other astronomical name...

Or maybe instead of Anakin Skywalker, maybe Luke? It has biblical connections, but I have no idea if there is any Arabic equivalent. I suppose it's Greek, right?

Sorry I can't be more help. Good luck!

Bridget said...

:) I love that you're so cool with us totally copying you!

Bridget said...

I LOVE it when you find the perfect name! I really feel like we were able to do that with both of our girls. I will be hoping for that same feeling with this boy. I know a few Eliases around here but I think most of them go with Elias in English, too. I hadn't considered that it could be Elijah.

Bridget said...

Do you still have a news-anchor crush on Ayman Mohyeldin, like I do? :)

Bridget said...

Yes, Ibrahim is a totally viable name!

Hmm, maybe Baby Empty Quarter Palmer has a nice ring to it...

Bridget said...

Yes, boy! I used to LOVE the name Orion when I was a kid. :)

The truth is that most any name in the Bible will work in Arabic because, Bible. Sometimes the form is different, though.

Ariana said...

I have a boy named Calvin. And he has a Hobbes (stuffed animal). Actually, he has a Hobbes, a back-up Hobbes, a Grandpa Hobbes, a baby Hobbes, a Hobbes' friend (a leopard). He sleeps with a giant pile of tigers. :)

imenbouyahya said...

Hi Bridget,

I congratulate you for such wonderful blog (group of blogs), I've been reading since some number of days.

I love the idea that you both are following a good tradition in picking your children names!

So, as Jeremy proposed to consult the stars I may suggest the name Suhail; It means a star in Arabic and easy to pronounce in English and people of the gulf have a large knowledge of this specific star Suhail.
I may also suggest Hamad that means the thankful one and Shady that means the one who sings lovely music..

I am happy for you and I wish you end up choosing an adorable name :)

Salam from Tunis :)

Eevi said...

We have such a difficult time finding a name because we love the idea of Finnish names since our kids dont get much of Finnish culture to them and we already have two Finnish named kids. However, the some of the most beautiful and fun names in Finnish sound ridiculous when American pronounce them . It is quite frustrating. So I feel for you:)

Liz Johnson said...

Yes. You know me too well. :)

Bridget said...

Lyse, if this kid had been born ten years ago, he probably would have been Calvin. Yes, partially after Calvin and Hobbes, like Ariana (it seems)!

Liz Johnson said...

I have a great idea - make his middle name Hajrahs. It's Sharjah spelled backwards!!!

(sorry. it's the Mormon in me.)

Liz Johnson said...

Ok, I keep thinking of new ones. Ezra (this one has long been a favorite of mine)? Asher? Isaac? Levi? Zebedee (I knew a baby Zeb, who was the coolest kid ever)?

musafira said...

Sorry, just a random reader of your blog, but some obvious suggestions: Yusuf (Joseph), Mikaeel (Michael), Jibril (Gabriel), Zakariya (Zachariah),Deen (Dean); and then Arabic names which work in English but without obvious equivalents: Harris, Faris, Sami, Zayn, Zaid, Aimen.

Nancy said...

We had a hard time coming up with boy names, too. :/ No help here; sorry.

Bridget said...

Thank you!!

Jen said...

liz, you and I must be on the same boy name wavelength. Two of our three boys were almost named Ezra.

(And were I to have another boy, Asher is at the top of the list....it means happy! I love it.)

Crys said...

Rules make things so difficult. Sometimes it feels good to toss them :) I like Tarif, Ali, how about Abu...or is that going to far? (Ali is actually my fav arab boy name) I'm a huge fan of Joseph, Joseph of Arabia for totally non Mormon reasons...I just think it goes well with the girl names), but because of said religious reason could see why you might want to stay away. From personal experience I'd say stay away from Ezra. Arabs we meet were confused because of the girl name Izra. Christian Arabs were downright outraged, even insisting we should change it :(. Totally unrelated to your rules at all but my favorite boy names of all time are Jamison, Eli, Sean, and I told Dr. J if we ever have another boy I'm naming him Chase Justice and he WILL BE a US Marshal. Good luck on you quest friend. You know how much naming my children stresses me out. Um unnamed baby for a month people :). I almost wish we could just call our children by their nickname and then have them pick their own name at adulthood :-/. I'm sure you'll find something you love, and it will be perfect and I'll think, "oh that Bridget is so clever and cool." Even if it takes you another month or two ;-)

Crys said...

Ps, I don't mean to make it sound like I regret my sons name because I don't but if we were to live in the Middle East full time he'd probably go to captain j instead of captain e.

Ariana said...

For a completely different source of inspiration (since you mentioned at one point you liked Orion), check out this list of stars. As in sparkly things in the night sky, not people on tv. The Arabs were quite awesome astronomers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Arabic_star_names

Tamara said...

As previously mentioned above, Jibril (Gabriel) is another one of my favorites, perhaps I'm just partial to Gabe. What about Khalij for a middle name? That way you have the whole region covered! :)

Julia - Finding My Way Softly said...

Joshua, Jericho, Samar, and Criston. (I don't know what Criston means, but a friend who is married to a Saudi has a nephew, from Saudi, with that name. The o is a long o sound, and I love the way it sounds when she says it.)

Katie Lewis said...

You can never go wrong with Mohonrimorianchomer. (Although I might have misspelled that.) :)

Britney said...

Ah, naming a boy. I totally hear you on the "perhaps we are asking too much of the universe" sentiment.

As for a suggestion? Hmm, I'm thinking Solomon.

Crys said...

I also totally love the name Ari, although I've been holding out hope that Dr. J would let me name a daughter Aria, which he is yet to agree to...we do this whole, we have to agree on the name and since we don't agree on any names we usually end up with just some random name somewhere in the middle that neither of us find offensive :)

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