“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” is a popular reference to William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. The truth is, names matter, a lot. That is why so many books scour the values and meanings of various names and relate their historical background. Tradition says, choose an established, powerful name so your child will grow up powerful, “living up to his name.” Lately, many mothers ignore tradition and create unconventional, unique names for their babies.
Contradictory articles abound on the effect baby-naming has on children as they grow and become adults. In America, simple, familiar European names are easy to like. Difficult, unusual names are harder to like. That is the situation, no matter how much one resents the bias. Immigrants from Asia, Scandinavia, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe understand this and choose names that do not get in the way of social or vocational success.
The current controversy seems to orbit “African-sounding” names. Cries of racism go up when anyone struggles with the unfamiliar, unusual, multi-syllabic names they create. The juxtaposition of these special names to common surnames confuses people. Nonetheless, baby names that are unique in spoken configuration and spelling are a modern trend among American mothers. The truth is, such names can encumber a child growing up, and an adult seeking acceptance and equal opportunities in American society.
Rather than cover the same ground as countless authors, let us “cut to the chase” with an idea that may satisfy both society and community – Hybrid names. By hybrid, I mean a first and a middle name that can make things work for children and adults in both worlds. One name for American society, (Tom, Rob, Dale, Doug, and Wayne, for example), pronounced and spelled in the conventional way. Another name for the community, whatever the ethnic or racial background dictates or allows.
The order of names is not important; the presentation of names is vital. Suppose you name your child Theodore Vladimir Trotsky. At home, you call him Vlad, on a job interview he uses Ted. T. Vladimir Trotsky and Theodore V. Trotsky are both valid names without handicap in either sphere.
Parents should think about their child’s future when they assign names. Consider making your child’s life easier in American society.
(BTW: If your name hinders you, a legal name change is a few hundred dollars away.)