Names to avoid in an Anglophone country

Over the years, I’ve come across names which, let’s be honest, just wouldn’t work in a modern Anglophone country. These names might sound beautiful in their native languages, not even pronounced like they’d be in English, but the spellings or connotations still are what they are. Bullies will find a way to make fun of any name they don’t like, but these names stand out all by themselves.

No offense is intended to people who do have these names! There are plenty of English names which must look or sound funny in other cultures.

1. Semen, the most common Ukrainian form of Simon. I shouldn’t even have to explain why this name is a no-go!

2. Urinboy. I found this while researching my post on Kyrgyz names on my main blog, and at first thought it had to be a joke or vandalism. It really is a legit name.

3. Bích, a female Vietnamese name meaning “bluish-green.” It’s pronounced BEEK, but we all know how everyone will assume it’s pronounced.

4. Dong, a male Chinese name whose meanings include “beam, pillar” and “east.” It’s pronounced DOONG. However, I don’t think the Scottish name Dongal should be avoided. I honestly didn’t realize what the first four letters spell in English until it was pointed out some years after discovering the name.

5. Dũng, a male Vietnamese name meaning “brave.” It’s pronounced like the English word “yum.” If you like the meaning that much, you could use the Chinese and Korean form, Yong, or one of the Japanese forms, Yuu or Isamu.

6. Foka, the Russian form of Phocas/Phokas, which means “a seal” (the animal). I’m not sure where the stress falls, but if it’s on the A, the name would be pronounced Fah-KAH, not FOH-kah.

7. Gaylord. This poor boy would be so bullied.

8. Gay(e). This poor girl would likewise be bullied, though once upon a time, this was a lovely name. We can’t predict how the language will evolve.

9. Osama. I’ve heard this name has been outlawed in some countries, and we can all understand why.

10. Adolf/Adolph. This name is likewise outlawed in many countries with naming laws. If you want to honor a special older relative or friend who was born before the name took on its modern association, what about the original form Adalwolf?

11. Titty. There’s a reason this is no longer a nickname for Letitia!

12. Tit. Pronounced TEET (still awful in English!), this is the Russian form of Titus.

13. Arseman. This was the name of a female character on the early Nineties Nickelodeon show Fifteen, as well as the real-life name of the young lady who played her. Given what “arse” means in the U.K., Ireland, and Australia, this is a no-go!

14. Arsen, a male Armenian name derived from the Greek Arsenios. It sounds like “arson,” and it’s also only two letters shy of “arsenic.” I personally wouldn’t use this name or any of the other forms of it, particularly if I lived in a place where “arse” is the spelling for one’s rear end.

15. Hardman, the Old Germanic form of Hartmann (brave man).

16. Jerker, a Swedish form of Erik. The J is pronounced like a Y, but the spelling in English is what it is. Another form of this name is Jerk.

17. Harm, a Dutch and Frisian nickname for Herman.

18. Violâte, a Jèrriais name which seems to be a form of the Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish Violante, which may in turn be derived from Yolanda. Both Violâte and Violante are too close to the word “violent,” and it’s obvious what Violâte spells in English. The similar-looking Violet, however, has never conveyed that connotation for me.

Are there any other names you’d add to this list?

Ten reasons I love onomastics

While plenty of people only choose names for their children, pets, and characters because they like the sound or think it’s cool, I’ve long been drawn to the history, culture, and etymologies behind names. I tend to choose meaningful names (both forenames and surnames) for my characters. It’s been years since I chose names from lists in the encyclopedia or the old baby names booklet my mother had when she was pregnant with me.

Some of the reasons I love onomastics include, but aren’t limited to:

1. It reminds me of how the world’s languages (Indo–European or otherwise) are more closely linked than many people assume. For example, the Kazakh name Akhat means “one,” which is very similar to the Hebrew word for one, echad. The spelling of the Etruscan name Egnatius was changed to Ignatius to resemble the Latin word ignis, “fire,” which is likewise very similar to the Sanskrit agni.

2. It helps me with learning other languages. If I’m doing a post about names with a certain meaning, I’ll quickly grow to recognise certain elements. The next time I see those elements, in either a name or a word, I’ll know what part of it means. For example, the Persian element Gol- means “flower” or “rose,” and appears as Gul- in many Georgian, Turkic, and Urdu names, while Ay means “Moon” in the Turkic languages.

3. It says so much about the culture and society those names come from. For example, many Slavic names have meanings relating to love and peace, while many Germanic names relate to war. Some languages, like Chinese, modern Hebrew, and Korean, also have many unisex names, instead of names which are traditionally only for one sex or the other.

4. It’s neat to see how a name is adapted into other languages. Not all languages share the same alphabet and sounds, so they have to substitute others. A B in one language could be a V or P in another; a T could be an F; and a W could be a G or Y.

5. I love seeing how other languages form their nicknames!

6. It shows what kinds of cultural osmosis has taken place in certain languages. For example, while Bosnian is a Slavic language, many of its names are of Arabic, Persian, and Turkic origin. Russian likewise has several very old names which are of Norse origin, like Oleg and Igor.

7. It leads me to discovering a love for names from languages I hadn’t paid much attention to before. While looking up names with a certain meaning, I might find some lovely names from a language I was never particularly interested in before, and will start exploring these names more in-depth. I might want to look up a name from a certain language for a character, and discover so many lovely names to choose from.

8. I like seeing what kinds of names were popular in other eras, and how what’s popular has shifted over time. Names that are now widely considered geriatric were once very trendy and fashionable, while other names have stayed consistently popular over many decades. Some names which are now seen as dated may be more popular in other languages, as people try to copy American culture.

9. It’s neat to see what kinds of invented names exist. In English, well-known invented names include Jessica, Pamela, Vanessa, Wendy, and Miranda. Invented Hungarian names include Csilla, Jolánka, Kincső, Enikő, Tímea, and Tünde.

10. It’s also fascinating to see how surnames are most commonly formed. Once you know the most common suffixes, it’s easy to identify someone’s ancestry or ethnic origin based on the surname.

Thoughts on naming flow

While I don’t think all parts of a name have to exactly “match,” there’s a lot to be said for a name flowing well together. Balance is so important, as is having the same general style. Here are some examples of names which flow well, some of them taken from my own characters. I’ll also be giving examples of names which I feel don’t flow so well.

1. The same amount of syllables in both names. This gives such a perfect balance and harmony to a name. Neither first nor middle name is overloaded or underloaded. For example:

Ernestine Zénobie
Emeline Rosalie
Adicia Éloïse
Thomas Albert
Carlos Ghislain
Maxwell Stanley

2. Pairing a one-syllable forename with a longer middle name. Having both names be short seems too staccato and abrupt to me. A multisyllabic middle name feels like such a perfect complement to a short and sweet first name. For example:

Eve Anastasia
Bruce Gabriel
George Reginald
Skye Leonarda
Grace Roxana
Bram Achilles

3. On the flip side, pairing a very long forename (three syllables or more) with a one-syllable middle name. For example:

Anastasia Maeve
Graciela Niamh (NEEV)
Zacharias Quinn
Vyacheslav Paul
Neonila Sage
Giovanni York

4. The 2+3 or 3+2 combo has a really great balance. Though one name is slightly longer or shorter than the other, these combos tend to flows very well. Examples:

Dafna Zehava
Quintessa Malka
Yehudah Barak
Pamelia Zera
Winston Tzuriel
Roger Elisha

5. Mileage may vary, but I feel like it’s too much of a mouthful to have two polysyllabic names in a row. There are so many lovely names with three or more syllables, but when both parts of a name are that long, it feels like neither is able to shine the way it deserves. Examples:

Aphrodite Ghisolabella
Benvolio Agamemnon
Oceana Anastasia
Octavia Victoriana
Ferdinand Mandarias
Algernon Giorgio

6. Mileage again may vary, but I’m not keen on names that seem to run into one another as a single long name when said out loud. This usually happens when the first name ends in the same sound the middle name starts with. Examples:

Isabelle Leah
Liam Ammiel
Rachel Ella
Achilles Lester
Roxana Annabelle
Tamar Mara
Oskar Arnold

7. It might sound cute, cool, or funny at first, but names meant as phrases can quickly wear out. Some can work beautifully, but others sound kind of corny and silly. I’m more likely to give them a pass if they sound original, and like they might have deeper meaning to the parents. Examples:

Vienna Dawn (Love this!)
Odessa Rose (Nice!)
Caledonia Winter (Lovely!)
April May June (Nope!)
Prairie Meadow (Not a fan!)
Summer Rain (Corny!)
Winter Snow (Corny!)
Happy Destiny (Nope!)
Forrest Cloud (Nope!)

8. While I don’t feel one NEEDS to stay within one’s own culture for names (as long as one respects the other culture), it can feel jarring if the first and middle names are from drastically different languages. Examples:

Hideyo Sebastiano
Zeuxippe Arundhati
Arjuna Guillaume
Elikapeka Yeong-Hui
Avishai Chukwuemeka
Ingrid Scheherazade

9. If multiple middle names are used, it flows best if they’re all about the same length. Catholics get a second middle name upon Confirmation, but sometimes multiple middle names are given at birth, for various reasons. Perhaps the parents know they’re only going to have one child, and so only have one chance to use all the name they love most. Perhaps this is their only child of a certain sex, and they know they won’t be having more kids. The child may have had a very rocky start, and so merits an additional name with very special meaning. Or maybe it’s just family tradition or personal preference.

Examples:

Chana Esther Dafna (my own Hebrew name)
Alice Louise Julia
Micah Robert Jonas
Philip Roger David
John Paul Anthony
Livia Aurora Daphne

Going Greek for A to Z!

This year, my A to Z theme on my secondary blog is Greek mythology! I got the idea last year, when my theme was The Divine Comedy. So many people in The Divine Comedy are figures from Greek mythology, and a number of the names I featured were among them.

I’ve loved Greek mythology since I first began learning about it in my sixth grade English class, and my parents (particularly my mother) really encouraged me to read more about it outside of the classroom. My mother even made me read The Iliad the summer before my senior year of high school, since The Odyssey was one of the books in my upcoming AP English class, and she wanted me to be prepared with background.

I deliberately chose names that aren’t so well-known, so you won’t be reading about names like Athena, Zeus, Odysseus, or Persephone. I also operated under the assumption that readers are familiar with mainstays like Hercules, Achilles, Zeus, Hera, Helen of Troy, and Athena, the Trojan War, and the fact that Zeus can’t keep it in his pants!

I used Latinized forms for C, J, and U. For F, Q, V, W, and Y, I found names from other mythologies. I used original Greek spellings for K, in spite of the overwhelming predominance of Latinized spellings in the Anglophone world. I have my own style of transliteration.

In the interest of fairness, I always do a male and female name for each day. These are deities, mortals, heroes, villains, and everyone in between.

You’ll learn about characters like:

Xanthos, one of Achilles’s two immortal horses, who stood still on the battlefield and wept after the slaying of Achilles’s best friend Patroklos.

Argos, the loyal dog who waited twenty years for his master Odysseus to come home.

Zethos, who with his twin brother Amphion built the walls around Thebes.

Ixion, whose shocking violations of xenia (hospitality) earned him a terrible eternal punishment.

Hypnos, the kind, gentle god of sleep, who owns at least half of our lives.

Orestes, the only son of King Agamemnon and Queen Klytemnestra, who went crazy after the revenge killing of his mother and was relentlessly pursued by the Furies.

Whaitiri, the cannibalistic Maori goddess of lightning, who thought a mortal named Kaitangata would be a perfect husband for her because his name means “man-eater,” only to be extremely disappointed when he was a gentle person who wanted nothing to do with eating human flesh.

Wayland the Smith, a master blacksmith with a taste for gruesome revenge.

Leto, the mother of Artemis and Apollo, who searched far and wide for a place to give birth after Hera cursed her.

Rhea, the mother of Zeus, who hatched a plan to save him from being swallowed after birth by his father Kronos.

Yoŭnik, an adorable, hard-working, little Belarusian barn spirit who hides from humans and zealously protects the harvest.

I’m really looking forward to sharing all these stories during April! Do be warned, some posts feature paintings or statues with artistic nudity (full or partial), so if you’re offended by that, my posts might not be your style.

The many forms of Patrick and Patricia

Though I don’t have a pleasant association with St. Patrick’s Day, owing to that being my uncle’s Jahrzeit (death anniversary), it’s only appropriate to mark the holiday with a post about the names Patrick and Patricia.

Patrick is an English, Anglicized Irish, German, and French name. It comes from the Latin name Patricius, which means “nobleman.” In the 5th century, a Romanized Briton named Sucat adopted the name Patrick. In his youth, he was captured and enslaved by Irish raiders, and escaped after six years. He later became a bishop, and is traditionally considered to be the one who Christianized Ireland. He’s also Ireland’s patron saint.

Though the name Patrick was used in England and continental Europe during the Middle Ages, it wasn’t typically used in Ireland itself until the 17th century. The Irish had considered it too sacred for everyday usage. In the centuries since, Patrick has become very common in Ireland. It was #16 there in 2015.

Other forms of the name:

1. Patrik is Swedish and Hungarian, as well as used in the various Slavic languages.

2. Pádraig is the original Irish form. The alternate form Pàdraig is Scottish.

3. Pádraic is an alternate Irish form.

4. Padrig is Breton and Welsh.

5. Patrice is French.

6. Patrizio is Italian.

7. Pherick is Manx.

8. Patrício is Portuguese. The alternate form Patricio is Spanish.

9. Patryk is Polish.

10. Patariki is Maori.

11. Patrek is Icelandic.

12. Patrici is Occitan and Catalan.

13. Patrekr is Old Norse.

14. Patriciu is Romanian.

15. Patrikas is Lithuanian.

16. Patriko is Esperanto.

17. Pátrikur is Faroese.

18. Patrizju is Maltese.

19. Patrycjiusz is Polish.

20. Patrikki is Finnish. This name is very rare.

21. Patriks is Latvian.

22. Poric is Welsh.

23. Patrekur is Icelandic.

24. Pàtric is Catalan.

25. Patrikios is Greek.

26. Patrycjusz is an alternate Polish form.

Feminine forms:

1. Patricia is English, Spanish, Latin, and German. This name was super-popular in the U.S. from the 1920s to the early 1970s, spending 1929–1966 in the Top 10. By 2015, it had dropped to #805. The alternate form Patrícia is Portuguese and Slovak.

2. Patrizia is Italian.

3. Patricie is Czech. The last two letters are pronounced separately, not as one.

4. Patrycja is Polish. The most common nickname form is Patka.

5. Pádraigín is Irish.

6. Patrice is an alternate English form. As a French name, this is exclusively masculine.

7. Patricija is Slovenian and Croatian. The alternate form Patrīcija is Latvian.

8. Patricea is Romanian.

9. Patrike is Basque. This is a modern, not traditional, name, and is very rare.

10. Patrisía is Icelandic. This is a modern, not traditional, name.

11. Patritsiya is Russian.