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Should migrant children keep their 'exotic' names?

(81 Posts)
Fiona2011231 Sun 11-Aug-13 13:35:59

Recently I met a lady of Indian origin in a birthday party. She told me that her children has European names (like Lisa, Michael, etc). I saw nothing unusual about that.

However, later on, she and some other friends had a discussion. She insisted that non-European children (from Africa or Asia, etc), born in the UK, should have Western names rather than keeping their original names.

The reason, she said, is that they would have more chance to succeed in life if people heard their names. And I myself remember reading an article which said those job applicants, who adopted Western names, were more likely to be given an interview.

What do you think about this issue? Do you think it is true that non-European children should have Western names if they want to succeed here?


Br0na Wed 21-Aug-13 18:50:50

I don't know......... mixed feelings, you can't control what other people think, or how another name is viewed. I would have called my children Diarmuid and Clodagh if we were in Ireland but in England I was afraid that an ancient Irish name from a legend would be labelled chav. So I went down the Frederick / Eleanor direction instead. Their country of birth strongly influenced the decision-making. But that was based on my fears of a lack of control over other people's prejudices. Maybe I should have thought fuck it.

Fraxinus Wed 21-Aug-13 18:46:15

Not read the whole thread, but wanted to say that while it is sensible to choose names that work in both languages, if migrants are anglicising their names a lot, it makes it harder for those who don't.

the more used to hearing foreign names we are, the more normal it gets to hear them, and the less of a problem should become in terms of discrimination.

I know Germans living in the uk during the 30's and 40's often anglicised their names, and you can see the reason for it. I would hope the environment has moved on since then.

ellesabe Wed 21-Aug-13 13:51:38

I had this recently with an African lady that I met recently. She introduced herself to me as Grace. So I called her Grace, referred to her as Grace and knew her as Grace...until I heard someone else call her a completely different name.

Rather awkward conversation followed...
Me: I thought her name was Grace.
Other person: No it's ...(insert other name)
Me: But she told me she's called Grace.
Other person: Oh, that's weird...(Grace arrives) Why did you tell Ellesabe that your name is Grace?
Grace: Oh, I just thought Grace would be easier for someone like her to remember and pronounce shock

Someone like her??? I still have no idea what she meant and was a little insulted that she felt I wouldn't be able to cope with her real name!

Cheerymum Mon 19-Aug-13 10:30:41

My husband came to the UK as an adult as is now commonly known as Jay rather than Jesus. It just provoked too much sniggering to be manageable!
We are choosing names for our children that are either the same in English and Spanish, or easily pronounceable/manageable if a bit exotic in one or the other. I think this is the best approach if having a new baby.
Difficult regarding "renaming" people with established names - nicknames can be easier, but at the end of the day it's that person's choice what to be called. Oh, and the CV thing - sad but true that it can make a difference IMHO.
I keep my maiden name at work, though that partly has to do with not wanting to throw away an academic track record of publications.

Frikadellen Thu 15-Aug-13 21:58:17

Dh and I deliberately aimed for names that was pronounced the same in Danish and English. We didn't wish for them to need 2 different names..

However I am unsure I would have gone as far as to give names that were unheard of in ether language.

lovestogarden Thu 15-Aug-13 20:20:51

But do they spell it with a 'y'?

mayihaveaboxofchoculaits Thu 15-Aug-13 15:43:46

Same as Loves, if it doesn't matter, then rather than repeat then spell my name. I just say "smith", works in cafes etc

lovestogarden Wed 14-Aug-13 18:47:25

My very british surname is spelled exactly the way it is said. Even when I say it to people they still try to overcomplicate it and throw in random letters!

DHs name, is exactly the same - spelled exactly as pronounced, but mainly mispronounced. His/our surname for some reason, is always mispronounced (italianised for some reason) and part of the last part missed out.

People are so odd!

DontCallMeBaby Wed 14-Aug-13 18:36:20

I wonder how much difference there is in people's feelings about having to spell their names vs having to correct people? I've always thought 'how do you spell that?' would be far less irritating than people assuming they could spell your name, but getting it wrong - my maiden name is by far the most common variant but unfortunately for my sanity the famous person it belonged to spelled it one of the other ways and people would use either that or some made-up version. I suspect if you have a name no one even thinks they can spell without asking it's just as annoying really.

lovestogarden Wed 14-Aug-13 16:27:03

It's a personal choice I suppose.

DH has a foreign name and its not bothered him too much. His mum anglicised her name briefly as she got fed up spelling it, but that lasted for about a week!

We have friends who have Italian and French names on their birth certs (born here to foreign parents) who answer to their original or anglicised versions of their names.

DS answers to any version of his very british name. My name is frequently frenchified (more popular over there), or made to sound italian by my italian friends. I even have a japanese version by a korean friend.

My Sri Lankan friend - born in ther UK (and her siblings) has a very traditional name. She is very very posh english though! Her parents (born in Sri Lanka) have names similar to Hilda and Frank (I kid you not - must've been the fashion in the 1930s).

We live in London - maybe its a weird london thing!

Kezztrel Wed 14-Aug-13 16:14:07

Totally agree Sollers. I've always had to spell my name for people. They get over it.

JohFlow Wed 14-Aug-13 16:13:48

I lived in Italy for a year on a teaching exchange programme. When I was in the classroom I was asked to call the children by their 'English' names (which often were far from the original Italian in sound) and my name was changed into its Italian equivalent 'Giovanna'.

From my part; it made me mad at first as I am very proud of my name and what it represents. I am very proud of my nationality and want to be known as British wherever I go. I was aware that I was treated very differently as a 'straniere' (stranger/foreigner) whilst there.

For others; I believe it is a personal choice what they prefer to be called. If they feel more integrated with an 'English' name then so be it.

There is still an idea out there that changing your name makes you integrate into local culture better. Does this mean that in the U.K. we may be less tolerant than we anticipate - or it this an idea that is generated purely overseas?

It's certainly an interesting topic to pursue. I am not sure of any answers yet.

Bumblequeen Wed 14-Aug-13 16:10:36

I know people who have even changed their surname. Apparently people feel their job applications will be treated more fairly.

I do not think you should change a child's name. Shortening a name is fine.

Sollers Wed 14-Aug-13 16:05:23

"I'm Irish, living in Ireland and I think that those giving their children Irish names (with complicated, un obvious spelling) are fettering their children unnecessarily. I had friends who emigrated in the 80's who had to change their names - or the spelling of their names. My children have names that are easy to pronounce and (hopefully) spell for that very reason, yet they go to school with the likes of Caoimbhe, Muireann, Donnchadh, Beibhinn, Blaithin, Aoibheann, Caoileann, Feichinn, Naoishe, Oileann, Roise, Sadhb, Tadhg, and the like who will have to spell their names day in day out (even if they stay in rural Ireland)."

What bollocks. I'm Irish with a very Irish name with fadas and all, and I live in mainland Europe. Yes, I have to spell my name to new people, and nobody gets the pronunciation right first time, but the same happens to my friend Amy, who also has to spell and pronounce her name for new people, what with Amy being a 'foreign' name in this country, and most other non-anglophone countries.

I'm proud of my name and proud that my parents gave me a name that reflects my rich heritage. It hasn't fettered me at all.

Kezztrel Wed 14-Aug-13 16:03:46

Sorry, my last post was not exactly very relevant to the thread smile It's just all the talk of maintaining 'heritage' by not giving English names etc is not always important or meaningful to people who aren't white.

Kezztrel Wed 14-Aug-13 15:59:10

You see my DH looks completely Asian, but as his mum is white, he has an English accent and speaks no other languages, and has never been to Asia in his life, it's pretty annoying when people label him as Asian and assume he has some kind of interesting non-English 'heritage' going on. Beyond the fact that his dad, who's been in England for 50 years, cooked the odd curry when they were growing up, he has the same cultural background as most white English people. it's not a major problem or anything, just irritated that he's never seen as English. One woman once commented on how good his English accent is FFS.

SabrinaMulhollandJjones Wed 14-Aug-13 15:49:02

Oh yes - he was a tool. I wasn't there for much longer thank god, but he was a sexist, racist dinosaur.

'Colin' was definitely Asian - but with a crisp English accent. The sad thing was (I thought) that people try and tackle racism by adopting an English name - but if you're not white, then with people like my boss, it still doesn't matter.

I strongly suspect that if his CV had come in with a name like 'Patel' on it, he wouldn't have even got an interview sad

thegreylady Wed 14-Aug-13 15:46:22

I tutored 2 children from Hong Kong they had both been given British names and also had Chinese names.The girl had a name more usually given to boys in this country.Both dc answered to both names but told me they much preferred to use their 'British' names at school.

Kezztrel Wed 14-Aug-13 15:36:55

Wow Sabrina, what an absolute tool. I know a couple of people who that manager would consider to be 'of Asian origin' but have completely English names, because they have their white father's surname and an English first name (because they're English and were born in England!) That's the thing - a person as stupid as your manager is hopefully not going to be particularly influential, long-term, in other people's lives, so ultimately having a non-English name/look won't matter, if you're good at what you do.

OneLittleToddleTerror Wed 14-Aug-13 15:28:44

sabrina really [shocked]. Can he really tell if someone is mixed race? I can imagine the UK might even have some Asians with only a British paternal grandfather! My boss's daughter is half Asian and I honestly think she looks totally Asian. Maybe I'm just not that good at picking up ancestry as your sales manager hmm. Like Alexa Chung. I think she looks totally white. Maybe this manager will also say she is deceitful as she couldn't be a Chung!

SabrinaMulhollandJjones Wed 14-Aug-13 15:22:28

I don't think they should have to change their names.

Saying that, though, I had a boss who was recruiting a sales manager. He interviewed a man called 'Colin Brown' who, when he turned up, was of Asian origin. Said manager complained to me that he was 'deceitful' and that his name was obviously not 'Colin.' Went on and on about it. I was shock and angry

DontCallMeBaby Wed 14-Aug-13 15:09:23

I'm torn - it's a massive shame for people to lose the name aspect of the culture they've come from, and for everyone to end up with a small subset of names that are easy to pronounce and spell for Anglophones.

On the other hand I grew up with a Scottish surname no one could spell right first time, and specifically gave DD the Anglicised version of her French first name (just French in origin, not an unusual name in the UK, we have no French connections) because I knew she'd go through life having to correct people's spelling otherwise.

SoupDragon Wed 14-Aug-13 15:05:01

oldnewmummy I did the same grin

Moknicker Wed 14-Aug-13 15:03:22

Ive got a foreign name and while it is difficult for people to pronounce, it has in fact frequently become a ice breaker as I laugh about the number of tries it takes to say my name properly.

No it has never held me back but that's because i never expected it to.

I think this is one of the self fulfilling prophecies - if you think your name is holding you back it probably will but if you dont then it probably wont.

Having said that, it probably makes a difference if you live in a big cosmopolitan city like London instead of a small village somewhere.

oldnewmummy Wed 14-Aug-13 14:50:13

Lol, just googled James Caan.

The actor (from The Godfather etc.) has always been called James Caan.

The one who changed his name was some bloke on Dragons' Den.

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