The entire world doesn’t speak English!

It’s really frustrating to read the comments on Behind the Name, and other naming sites, regarding quite obviously male-origin names, only used as male names in their languages of origin. Names like Misha, Nikita, Sasha, and Ilya frequently have Anglocentric comments like:

“This name is ALL GIRL!”
“Any boy with this name will be made fun of and beaten up!”
“I thought this was a girls’ name till I saw the origin listed as male.”
“How could this be a boys’ name?”
“Sorry, I don’t care what the origins are, this name is only for girls.”
“We don’t live in [insert country name]. Only girls have this name here.”
“This name doesn’t belong on boys, but it’s cute on girls.”

You get the idea. While certain Russian nicknames are indeed unisex, like Sasha, many others, like Misha, have only ever been used on males. Even the name Mikhaila is almost unheard-of in Russia, so you can’t argue some girls would have that nickname too.

Many male Indian names end in A, like Krishna, Shiva, Brahma, Bhima, Bharata, and Ganesha. Will you claim it’s stupid and ignorant for Indians to use their own native names on boys, and for so many male characters in Indian mythohistory to have these names? God forbid the entire world not speak English!

Do you think established names like Joshua and Ezra aren’t really male after all, since they end in A? I hope they don’t eventually get lost to the girls, the way many people have co-opted male names like Micah, Luca, and Elisha for the girls’ side.

It’s pretty damn ignorant to decide a name’s etymology and history don’t mean jack when it’s not even your own language or a culture you’re familiar with. You can’t just suddenly decide Misha or Nikita has to be a girls’ name since it ends in A, and you’ve grown used to seeing them on girls. No one in Russia would believe a woman with one of those names. Those are very strong, traditional, established male names. Misha isn’t even used as a first name. It’s a nickname, not a given name in its own right.

Sometimes names do switch sides, like Ashley, Alexis, Courtney, Taylor, Mackenzie, and Evelyn. That doesn’t mean you have open license to mock any boys who still have those names or declare it’s an exclusively female name. That’s equivalent to people whose understanding of history only extends as far as their own lifetimes, or who think a classic film is from the Eighties instead of the Thirties.

Cultural appropriation isn’t cool. It’s one thing if you decide to call your son Michael Misha for short, or name your son Nikita because you have Slavic ancestry or are a Slavophile. It’s not cool to decide your own opinions cancel out a name’s established origins and current usage in its country of origin. Would you feel comfortable if a bunch of people in a foreign country suddenly up and decided Robert was a really cute name for girls, and said they didn’t give a damn about its proper usage?

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One comment on “The entire world doesn’t speak English!

  1. 39yearslame says:

    I suddenly had a horrible image in my mind of certain ignorant modern people being thrust back in time and starting WWIII by saying “Gee, Mr. Khrushchev, did you know you have a girl’s name?”

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