Hi Duana,

I am Canadian of Irish/Scottish ancestry and he is Somali Canadian. Our kids are going to be so good looking (or really odd looking, we will see)! Also, our last name is Ryan Abdillahi. Keeping this in mind, what do you think of Oonagh for a girl and Ibrahim for a boy? No matter what, its going to be a mouthful so do we just go for it? Or take it down a notch to keep the kids from having nervous breakdowns when they learn how to spell their names? Give it to me straight. I can take it.


Oh boy.   Here we go.   I really like your last line, and I hope it’s actually true.    Because what you have proposed here is probably not a good idea, you know?  

First things first. The usual caveats apply in that I know despite what you’ve written that you don’t necessarily think you’ll name your daughter Oonagh AND your son Ibrahim. At least, I sure as hell hope not. One gets the names of each culture? Is this The Parent Trap? As someone who grew up in a blended-cultures family, I feel like there are enough divides between “us” and “them” without creating divisions in the actual family unit.   Also, that’s kind of weird if they’re a boy and a girl. Would you go the same way if you had two boys or two girls? How about Aziza or Safiyo or Amina for a girl? Aengus or Alisdair for a boy?

Blending two cultures in names is so important and yet so tricky. I’m in no way claiming this is an easy task, but I kind of wonder if you’re so accepting of the idea that it’s going to be a difficult mouthful that you’re actually trying to make it more difficult? For example, yes, there are a lot of letters, so given the epic last name, do you lose anything by using the “Una” spelling? I want to be clear here -- I love the name Una, but if having one’s name spelled wrong is an avoidable frustration, why not avoid, you know?

Similarly, Ibrahim Ryan Abdillahi is not so much a problem to say – but I don’t know if you have a hyphen. If you don’t, and people say “Ibrahim Abdillahi”, well, that is a lot of syllables to get up and down. It feels like a choir exercise. And actually, the more I say it out loud to myself, I like it – but it is a lot for a kid to carry around.

So here’s where I landed:

I am not a nickname person. I cringe at them. I don’t understand why you’d name your kid something you dislike and then call them something else.   It’s not for me. 

But I will make an exception here, because I feel like this is the situation for which it was invented. Give the kid a break until he’s old enough to wear the name with pride. What works for you?  “Abe”? “Iggy”?  “Ibi?” (I knew a guy called Eby (his last name) a while back, and you’d be shocked at how well it worked. Oonagh – or especially Una – is a lot easier to get around, syllable wise, so I don’t know if a nickname applies as much, but maybe once you do one, you do them all?

In summary: 

I’d choose one culture to name both kids from, or choose one from each to go with your blended last name. I’d also really consider cutting back on the vowels for ease of use with spelling. Think of all the times you’ve said “No, D like David” when on the phone (though I assume that ancient technology will be a mere memory by the time your kids are grown).

Lastly, if you’ve read all the way to the end, you are an excellent sport, so thanks!