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What’s in a child’s name?


In what could possibly be the strangest place to find inspiration for an article, this week’s story comes from last night’s dream.

In my dream, I gave birth to a baby girl, and two days later, still didn’t have a name for her. It was a silly dream, but it kept the idea of names in my head all day long.

In real life, both my kids had their names picked out for them before they were even conceived, but if I have a third, I have to admit, I have no idea what name to go with.

Naming a person can be a pressure-filled task. After all, this is the name that he/she will carry for the rest of his/her life. The last thing you want to do is give a name that will invite teasing or bullying all throughout high school. Although really, kids are geniuses when it comes to finding a way to twist a name and turn it into a joke, so you can’t really avoid this one.

You also want to make sure that it is a name people can understand and won’t constantly butcher in both spelling and pronunciation. Some people like classic names to ensure their kids’ names will always remain relevant, but doing so runs the risk of having five other kids in class with the same name.

To counter this, other parents go for the unique and fashionable names, but you never know how long the trend will last, and when the name will become as passé as who or what they named the baby after.


Parents and grandparents

Here in our country, naming children after parents and grandparents is also quite common. I have a friend whose son is the fifth to inherit a name that began with the great-great-grandfather, and was passed on directly from father to son. I think it’s fascinating to see a family history and legacy live on through the name.

Meanwhile, another family we know refrains from passing on names. This is because they want to encourage their new generations to pursue their own paths and dreams.

But in naming children after ancestors, there is the politics of who to name children after. Do you name after your or your spouse’s side? Naming your child after only one side of the family might get you into trouble with the other side, which explains why so many of my relatives are named after both their grandfathers or grandmothers.

In other cases, we have kids whose names are a combination of both their parents or grandparents’ names. Sometimes the combinations are lovely and truly unique.

There are also the patriotic ones who name their children after the big three of our country—Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao—rolled into the name we all know as Luzviminda.

Religion also plays a big role in the way we name our children. One of my aunts once told me there was a time when the church supposedly would not baptize a child unless he/she had a saint’s name attached to the full name. I don’t know if this was ever true, but the practice of naming one’s child after a patron saint is something very close to our culture and one that I find comforting.

It’s nice to know there’s an extra person they can look up to for inspiration and model behavior. Incidentally, a few years ago, I attended a baptism where the child’s name was taken from “Star Wars,” and everything went without a hitch.

And then there is our predilection for giving the most obvious nicknames to our beloved children. A son is called Boy (or Bhoy) and the daughter gets called Girl/Girly or Baby, and 50 years later, we lovingly call them Tito Boy and Ninang Baby. I have a cousin who was born with the name Anna but, like all babies, looked like a little Buddha when she was just a few months old. She now has three kids of her own and definitely looks nothing like a baby Buddha anymore, yet the nickname remains while her real name has long been forgotten.

Top 10 names

The more I think about it, the more I realize that when it comes to naming kids in the Philippines, there is never any shortage on name ideas! But just the same, I decided to Google the projected top 10 names for boys and girls this 2013 and here are the names that came up, based on the most-searched-for names, according to CNN.com and parenting.com.

For girls:

1. Isabella

2. Millie

3. Sookie

4. Ann

5. Ella

6. Betty

7. Ellie

8. Emma

9. Eithne

10. Charlotte

For boys:

1. Jacob

2. Max

3. Liam

4. Ted

5. Mo

6. Aiden

7. Andy

8. Bertie

9. Ned

10. Gus

Many of the names on the list don’t sound very Filipino or common in our country, but some of them have been going around our local circles for quite a while such as Isabella, a beautiful name that means “God’s oath,” and Charlotte (“strong”). Of course Ann is also a classic favorite for many of us, and I am sure we all have at least five Ann/Anne/Annas in our lives, ranging from aunts to friends or maybe even yourself!

Among the boys, I’ve met a number of Liams and I have a nephew named Aiden but from the looks of it, many of the names on both lists may be more western than Filipino, and may not trend the same way in the Philippines as abroad.

But at the end of the day, whatever name we choose for our children, it will always just be the beginning for them. No matter how nice it may be, it will be up to them to make it mean more than just the one-word definitions they have in the baby name dictionaries.

They will have to find a way to step up to the challenge of living up to the names of their ancestors and going beyond the shadows of their larger-than-life namesakes or, for those with unique names, making sure it becomes a name they can be proud of.

So don’t worry or stress too much about what to name your child, or what the meaning of the name is. The name will come, and your child will define it through his life.

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Tags: Childrearing , Family , PARENTING , stress

  • feargo

    this is a lazy article. lazy because the author did not do any research at all. if she did she would have found that in the philippines, names have changed dramatically in the last fifty years.

  • http://www.facebook.com/fernandina.ko.3 Fernandina Ko

    Sad. The title looked so promising but there really wasn’t much information in it. I’m sure the writer meant well to pass off her observations but her point of reference is too limited that this feels like a 5-minute copy commissioned to fill up a 20+ para space. :(

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