Duana Names: Cultural Can-We-Do-That?

Duana Posted by Duana at July 25, 2018 20:47:43 July 25, 2018 20:47:43

Help!

Since I was little I’ve always known my daughter’s name would be Katherine but we all call her Kate. My name is a Polish variation of Katie but I’m not at all Polish (long story! Eye roll), which is Kasia. I loved the sentiment of it and the fact my moms name is Kathy.

I’m pregnant with my second girl. I never wanted to carry on another K name but initially we had thought Karlie... until my pregnant sister (who didn’t know at the time she was having a girl, but we knew we were having a girl) announced this was her name. Now we want nothing to do with that name, but it haunts me since I like zero names. 

So I turned to my husband for naming this daughter since I have no contending names. His top pick is Mila. Emma is his second choice. No clue about middle names. 

I do like Mila but with our Greek last name I worry we are looking too exotic here (I know this issue all too well with “where are you from?!” and “what kind of name is that?”). I loved the name Kate because it seemed so timeless, classic, simple yet not overly popular. 

Emma is obviously number one and Mila is definitely growing in popularity... but I have no direction on anything else. It just seems like nothing is sticking. Would love your insight. I want a name so I can feel like I’m somewhat bonding with this new baby girl, too! 

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Okay, I want you to be able to bond with this baby girl too. And I have good news – you’re closer than you think. You are feeling confused, that’s clear, but there’s a way forward here. 

Putting aside all the questions of ethnicity and origin for a moment, I want to tell you that you like names that are simple. Simple to say and that, when you read them, are easy to understand. Kate. Karlie. Emma. Mila. They read like they sound. So when you’re looking at names and wondering if they’re for you, or why you’re not feeling the feelings you hope you might, it might be because names like, say, Anwen or Priscilla or Thalia just feel a bit too decorative and off-base for you. So I can understand your attraction – and your husband’s to Emma and Mila. 

That brings us to the popularity question, and while I understand not wanting to go with Emma, it is a far, far cry from the #1 name to thinking that Mila is getting popular. I mean, it’s getting to be more known, definitely, but I can’t think that you want a name that’s never been heard of, right? After all, Kate is not in super-popular use right now, but I know you know there are Kates and Katies by the dozen. So if it’s more likely that what you mean is that you want a name that is as simple and straightforward but less likely to appeal to your adult peers… what about something like Lena? Like Anya? Anna, for that matter, or if you want to invoke both names starting with K, how about Kira? If some of these seem too same-y to one another, or to Mila or Emma, consider something like Eve, or Helen, or Adele? Petra? Clara? 

Beyond those names, though, I have to tell you a refrain that may be common if you read this column a lot – there’s a whiff of anxiety coming from you where an ‘exotic’ name is concerned.

I’m not sure if this is because your Greek last name (and maybe your Polish first name) makes you feel as though, combined with a name like Mila, you’re pretending to be something you’re not (perhaps the Greek heritage is many generations back, for example) …or if it’s because you think it’s better to have a name that ‘blends in’. If it’s the latter, I can assure you that there’s no such thing as a ‘normal’ name anymore. Obviously this varies greatly by geographical region, but I think you’ll find there’s a strong trend toward choosing names in your family tree that speak to and celebrate the various cultures we come from, and that someone else who has ‘Katherine’ in their family tree might be more inclined to use Yekaterina or Katuska to honour that name… which not only has the benefit of honouring-yet-changing a name, but also makes the class lists for various nursery schools a lot more interesting. Ask all the Matteos and Elans and Celines in the local toddler room near you. 

Forgive me if I’m up on a soapbox about something you’re not opposed to, but I think there are still people who need to hear this – there is absolutely nothing wrong with a name that has an origin outside of North American ‘norms’, especially since the names we consider to be ‘North American’ didn’t start here anyway. You never need to fear that you’re ‘trying to be something you’re not’, nor that you’re going to saddle your kid with any kind of problematic name – I promise you that the hottest trend going is to have a name that hasn’t been heard before, and that means a name with an influence from outside our borders is something to celebrate. 

Let us know! 

Photos:
Dimitrios Kambouris/ Getty Images

Tags: Name Nerd
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