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.

quoteunquote Sat 29-Jun-13 22:58:03

I think it is a lovely idea,

Who gives a flying fishes what anyone else thinks.

It is lovely to have a list of names you like and when you meet your baby, working out who they are is the best bit.

Devora Sat 29-Jun-13 23:01:30

I think you should go for it.

englishteacher78 Sat 29-Jun-13 23:03:25

My mum gave me a German name rather than the Scottish one the extended family would have preferred. Sometimes I liked it. Sometimes I hated it. Most of the time it didn't matter. I know your example seems more extreme but there seems more diversity in names now anyway.
Names that have negative historical associations for me seem relatively popular (Tarquin). Your name choices are gorgeous.

Alisvolatpropiis Sat 29-Jun-13 23:03:37

Priya is such a lovely name. I'm amazed it hasn't taken off in the same way names like Layla have.

MacaYoniandCheese Sat 29-Jun-13 23:04:13

I think your ideas are lovely...they are real names that have meaning to you. Go for it!

sallysparrow157 Sat 29-Jun-13 23:12:56

I went to uni with someone who was white British but named after a very not British friend of his dad - he did quite frequently get asked where his name was from but only in a friendly curious sort of way and he wasn't bothered by being asked. I have a couple of Chinese friends who have very English names which they are known by but also have Chinese middle names or first names they don't go by - I quite like the contrast in their names

WhoBU Sat 29-Jun-13 23:17:04

Tbh, I wouldn't and find it a bit weird.

AllegraLilac Sat 29-Jun-13 23:17:39

Maybe unite the two ethnicities? One British and one ethnic for first and middle names?

MortifiedAdams Sat 29-Jun-13 23:19:07

I love the name Priya, heard it first on The Big Bang Theory, and assumed it was spelt Pria. I would consider it for a dd. Zeeshan nit so much but not hecause of ethnic7ty, I'm just not fond.

I love Aoife but have no Irish connections. It wouldnt put me off.

cantreachmytoes Sat 29-Jun-13 23:20:31

Go for it. As long as you like it and understand the meaning in the original language, who cares. Most "British" names have Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French or Germanic origins anyway.

PoppyWearer Sat 29-Jun-13 23:20:49

I think the idea in itself is lovely/fine, and the names you like are lovely.

But (and I'm sorry for this)...

It's fine and lovely until your DC submits a CV for a job and some prejudiced twat is in the decision-making position. I think it's in the book "Freakonomics" where there is a chapter called "What's in a Name" and the answer is....quite a lot actually. Same CV, the white-sounding name got more interviews, IIRC.

I'm sorry to bring this up. Perhaps this isn't the type of success you crave for your child, and their name may open other doors to them. But shouldn't it be their choice?

(I speak as a person who has a name that can be construed as an Asian name and have met with some prejudices until the "oh, but you're white" moment.)

I have given my own children "portable" names that tend to work well in multiple languages and cultures for this reason.

Sorry, I really don't want to burst your bubble, I can see that your intentions are good.

I think Sakura or Priya are lovely names.

I've never come across Zeeshan but I don't find it weird.
Don't worry about pleasing everyone else- go with the name you love for your baby!

bugsybill Sat 29-Jun-13 23:24:24

I think it is fine. I would choose something that is easy to pronounce.

I like zeeshan and priya smile

I would suggest you choose a family/own culturally significant middle name.

halestone Sat 29-Jun-13 23:29:16

I think you should go for it always chose a name YOU like, other people will learn to love it and it will end up really suiting your baby.

chesterberry Sat 29-Jun-13 23:38:24

Thank you for your replies everybody, you have left me feeling a lot more reassured that my name choices are okay and that I don't need to listen to my parents.

PoppyWearer - It is a bit disconcerting to hear that having an 'ethnic sounding' names can make a difference with regard to CVs etc, but perhaps whatever name I choose will bring up some prejudices with it? I hope my child would not want to work in a company that discriminates, but if they did want that kind of job my surname is quite British sounding and I do have traditional British middle names picked out (after my Grandmother and late uncle) so baby will have a British name to use if they wish to.

I definitely won't be making any final decisions on the name until I meet my baby, but feel a lot more reassured by you all that the pregnancy hormones haven't made me go completely crazy in regards to choosing a name and that my choices aren't too out there! [grin

MissTweed Sun 30-Jun-13 03:32:56

If I'm totally honest then I ditto what poppy wearer said.

I think it depends what part of the country you (they would)I live in possibly?

I live in Devon and work in a profession where it possibly might affect job/cv wise (obviously totally dependant on which backwards idiot is reading the doing the selection process) unfortunately this is due to a number of occasions (actually about 90% of them) where other ethnicities have been appointed, gained the qualifications at the expense of the organisation then left shortly afterwards. I'm sure there are many reasons why this has happened but I'm sure (I know for a fact in some instances) a name would influence cv decisions.hmm

Sunnysummer Sun 30-Jun-13 04:08:59

My thinking on the CV thing is that maybe it's a good jerk detector - I mean, who wants to work for the kind of person who wouldn't employ a Priya?

HOWEVER.. It is still a little odd to have such a distinctively foreign name without a really strong tie. Speaking as a person with a foreign name and English accent, everyone she meets will ask about it, which can get tiring. Maybe if the tie is really strong - like your life was saved by a heroic Dr Priya in India, or you conceived your child in the cherry blossom season in Japan, that makes sense. But if it's just that you spent a few weeks there on a gap year it might be better to keep it as a middle name, as suggested above.

oinkment Sun 30-Jun-13 04:50:29

One of my daughters has a Greek name. I quite often have to have this conversation:

Oh how lovely! Are you Greek?

No, I'm English.

Oh right. What's the Greek connection?

No connection. Just like the name.

Oh right.

<awkward pause>

Have you been to Greece?

No, never.

Right. Still, it is a lovely name...

<Oink briefly feels a slight tit>

I think its a great idea and you should go for it.

And regards to the cv thing, most companies do not look at names until they have done the selecting, they mainly go on the person meeting the criteria. Like the other day when I went for a job in the same company I work for, nobody had a clue until the one for interview were selected and then the names were disclosed. So don't worry about all that.

I think, if its very much a name from a different culture, then the conversation oink outlines will happen a lot .

PoppyAmex Sun 30-Jun-13 07:44:25

"And regards to the cv thing, most companies do not look at names until they have done the selecting, they mainly go on the person meeting the criteria."

I'm sorry to disagree; I've been a Headhunter and worked in Recruitment for many years and the vast majority of companies will look at a CV in its entirety before proceeding to next stage.

PoppyWearer is right; "Freakonomics" describes this well known social phenomena very well.

OP, I think they're lovely names but your daughter might feel a bit silly answering questions about her ancestry constantly with "well... mum travelled there in her gap year" wink

PoppyAmex Sun 30-Jun-13 07:45:07

Actually, just read oink's description and I would imagine that's pretty descriptive of what would happen.

Freakonomics has been heavily criticised for not being correct so I wouldn't worry about that. Your names are lovely.

sashh Sun 30-Jun-13 08:02:30

Love Sakura, not too keen on the others.

BUT I think it is lovely that you are thinking of names with a reason.

I'd love to have had a name with a reason / story. The only story I have is that my parents didn't think I was going to be a girl so they spent every visit going through lists of names til they found one they didn't both hate.

I don't think it's a big deal but it can be a real albatross around a kids neck to carry a name which has nothing to do with them culturally.

I have this situation with ds2. We named him a polish name, we have no polish connections at all but loved the name and the meaning.
What worries me now, is him being judged by his name on application forms etc. The thing is, his middle and surname aren't English either, his surname is Italian!

Otoh, if people are that small minded to judge someone by their name, it's not anybody I want in my sons life anyway

MrsBungle Sun 30-Jun-13 08:20:32

I think it's a lovely idea but I just imagine the type of conversation that oink has. This would, personally, put me off. It's hard naming another human! They are the ones who have to live with it.

My kids have both got relatively unusual middle names, both of which mean a lot to us but I wouldn't have used them as first names even though I love them.

Zynia41 Sun 30-Jun-13 11:29:26

I don't know, to be honest, if it's all just French, Spanish, Italian, polish, irish, welsh on a white person from the british isles I wouldn't think much, but i'm sorry, if I see a white English person with a Japanese name, or an Asian name, I would just wonder, why and really? But that is just me because I am very nosy and I always where people are from and if they are half Italian for example I ask if there mum or their dad was the Italian one. it's lovely if there is a story but would it drive you mad if people like me were fishing for that story!?

badtime Sun 30-Jun-13 13:22:06

It's not like it is unheard of for people of European descent to have an Indian name - Uma Thurman for example, but people will expect you to justify it (Uma's father is a buddhist scholar). If you feel that your reasons are good enough for you, they should be good enough for others.

Justfornowitwilldo Sun 30-Jun-13 13:25:06

'I don't think it's a big deal but it can be a real albatross around a kids neck to carry a name which has nothing to do with them culturally.'

I agree completely and I grew up with one.

hatsybatsy Sun 30-Jun-13 13:30:25

Sakura isn't a first name even in Japan though? It just means cherry blossom.....

It sounds quite pretty in Japanese - don't think it sounds that great anglicised though. for that reason alone, I wouldn't do it.

elQuintoConyo Sun 30-Jun-13 13:41:28

So if Sakura was the name of a doctor who saved your life, that's ok, but if it's a name you heard while on a couple of weeks' gap year yabu? Whoever said that upthread is nuts!

Names mean different things to different people, for different reasons.

So what, you/dc might spend your life explaing your name - heck, I'm 38 and still have to spell my surname and it's not difficult, I just get on with it.

You find prejudice everywhere over everything. Those names sound lovely and are important for you. Sod everyone else grin

Fwiw on another thread someone is stuck between the names Tigris/Antigone for their dd - some people think they're beautiful, some think hideous.

Justfornowitwilldo Sun 30-Jun-13 13:49:21

Spelling and explaining are different. It never occurred to me until I was at University to just lie and say my grandmother was from that country!

elQuintoConyo Sun 30-Jun-13 13:59:42

So, dc grow up daying 'it's a name my DM lovex'? Is that so hard? Are peope really so catsbum mouth when presented with something like this? 'Why are you called Priya? Is your DM/DF Indian? Oh... how odd'. Eff off grin

^^that last bit aimed at future idiots questioning your DD's name, not pp

elQuintoConyo Sun 30-Jun-13 14:01:39

My Dsis has a nuts name, sounds like a nn for an Irish name but isn't. Our DM heard it and liked it, end of.
My name, in contrast, is very ordinary.

LizTerrine Sun 30-Jun-13 14:15:34

I think many British people would mispronounce Sakura and call her sa-KOOR-a, which would bug me. Plus as pp said, the more common name in Japan would be Sakurako, which is a bit old-fashioned (think women in their mid30s).

Plus, to be honest, I met a White British Hiroko once and was somewhat non-plussed as I had been expecting someone at least part-Japanese. We had a really awkward conversation as described above so vividly by oink and she looked pained. It was obviously a familiar topic for her!

blueshoes Sun 30-Jun-13 14:15:36

No. People will always think that person's parents are just a little woo or lotus eating.

ChubbyKitty Sun 30-Jun-13 14:23:23

My name is very, very, French. I however, am not. Not by a long shot!

But it's okay to do it! And Sakura is beautiful - I love anything to do with Japan!

ChubbyKitty Sun 30-Jun-13 14:24:09

I'm sorry I got really overexcited there confused haha

Sonkey Sun 30-Jun-13 15:17:27

I've been to a couple of restaurants called sakura, that puts be off. If you like Asian names there are quite a few that work well in Britain.

Mintyy Sun 30-Jun-13 15:21:42

No, I don't like this. Just something I would never do.

I love the name Mercedes, for instance, but alas neither dh or I have the tiniest bit of Spanish in our ancestry, so I couldn't give it to dd.

ZZZenagain Sun 30-Jun-13 15:30:19

your question is whether it is ok to use a name which doesn't reflect your dc's ethnicity. I think yes but sometimes the effect could be jarring for people - or even comic if you are really unlucky.

The 3 names you have in mind, I would not use not for the above reasons though. I just don't think they would work.

Will people find it strange? Yes of course. They and you will always be asked about it, but maybe that doesn't bother you much. You can just say, it is an Indian name actually and I liked the way it sounds. But you may have to say it a lot!

HighInterestRat Sun 30-Jun-13 15:34:42

I think I'd assume one parent was of another heritage. There are quite a few mixed-heritage sounding names at my dcs' school and this is usually the case.

NoSnowJustSand Sun 30-Jun-13 15:39:33

I think it's lovely to think of giving your child a more exotic name. Why not?

I have a French name and I'm not French. It's never been an issue.

LittleNoona Sun 30-Jun-13 15:40:18

Sakura is beautiful smile

chesterberry Sun 30-Jun-13 18:19:03

Hmm, thanks for all of the replies. I knew that this would be a mixed response, not sure if I am any closer to knowing if the decision would be okay or not. Although based on responses I think I have ruled out Sakura as maybe that does just sound too Japanese and I think LizTerrine is right that it would be pronounced wrongly. It also would not go at all with my potential middle name, and when I think about it I kind of have my heart set on using my Grandmother's name for the middle if baby is a girl. I still think the name is lovely, but maybe not for my baby with no Japanese heritage.

Middle names would be Rose, after my grandmother, or James after my late uncle. Priya Rose. Zeeshan (Zishan?) James. Maybe Rose for the first name, although not sure Rose Priya works and although I like Rose I'm not sure I love it. I don't think I could use James as a first name, uncle died unexpectedly and quite young and not sure it would seem right to use as the first name as it is so much my uncle's name.

Oh, I just don't know! Might go back to the baby name books and see if I can come up with at least a few more names on my short-list and maybe when little one is born the right name will become clear.

If you like Rose, how about Rosina? It's a bit more unusual

Rosamund and rosilyn are lovely too!

chesterberry Sun 30-Jun-13 18:51:28

Thanks for the suggestions, but it's not so much that I like Rose as that I want to use my Grandmother's name, and her name is simply Rose. I mean obviously I do like the name as well, but more because of the fact it reminds me of her than the sound of it - really not a fan of the names with 'Ros' at the beginning either -. Was babysat by a lady called Ros who I hated! I know you don't always pronounce it Ros, but even so I don't think I could go for it. I do quite like Rosie but that's the name of a very close friend's daughter so don't think I can use it.

Thinking I should have conceived little one with an Asian man to save all these worries!

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.

chillinwithmyyonis Sat 06-Jul-13 01:03:25

I like Priya, its a simple pretty name, I suppose a bit similar sounding to Freya. I doubt it'd give you that many problems.

Not so keen on Sakura, but Zeeshan is quite nice.

My own DS is mixed, he has an African first name but his middle name is Micah, which can be used for a girl too. And I know a Pascha, a French Hebrew name, but the little girl has no connection. And I quite like Tabiya which is german.

mirai Sat 06-Jul-13 06:14:27

Yes, Sakura is a very popular name here in Japan, I teach two and know a couple more as friends. I think it's lovely smile

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