The Name Game

26 11 2009

In some recent news, a London based translation firm is offering parents-to-be the chance to check the meaning of their prospective baby names in other languages. The service with this firm currently costs 1000 pounds (nearly $1700) to check the name’s meaning in 100 different languages. An alternative to this that I would lean towards would be Google – because it’s FREE! Regardless, some celebrity types love to spend money in the most frivolous ways, and, at the same time, love the fad of naming their children with less contemporary names. One celebrity name that may have been wise to check in other languages is Suri Cruise. I will say that I support checking this one because of Tom Cruise’s wide-spread reputation and the size and influence of the countries where his daughter’s name translates horribly. Suri translates to “turned sour” in French, “pickpocket” in Japanese, and “horse mackerels” in Italian. Maybe Suri will luck out and find interest in science or marching band rather than foreign language during high school…

Another example that was made was Gwen Stafani’s son, Zuma. Of course, everyone knows that Zuma meanLord Frowns in Angers “peace” in Arabic. That’s a given… What people may not have known is that, in the Aztec language of Nahuatl, Zuma means “Lord frowns in anger”. Man, are all of Stefani’s Aztec neighbors going to have a field day with this one! To be fair, Nahuatl is still a spoken language, so Zuma may have a tough week if and when he chooses to go backpacking through the mountains of central Mexico. Until then, his name will probably be more closely connected to the Zuma beach in Malibu, California known for its great surfing and scenery. What a shame.

Some names that are being created and used in America need no translation, but perhaps just a second set of eyes before making it official. Take for example the name, Ladynasty, which is to be pronounced luh-dynasty, but could be easily broken into lady-nasty! Oh, how easily that name can be turned insulting. All it takes is a creative middle-schooler with a need for some fun during algebra. Another favorite of mine is, La-a. This one usually gets people stuck, but let me give you a hint… it’s Ladasha. Seriously?! I mean no offense to Lady Nasty or La-a. It is not their fault that their parents picked out their names during flip cup. I will credit creativity points, but creative doesn’t always equal wise (like giving the Fanny Bank as an anniversary gift to your wife). The more I consider it, I actually don’t even mind the use of symbols in a name, but I would like to see something a little more understandable – like P@ or P8on. Are we getting too close to personalized licence plates now? Eh, we could play with it for one generation I suppose.

I think the bottom line is that we shouldn’t concern ourselves with the translation of our children’s names into other languages. If the Estonians decide to make fun of our children because of the difference in cultural meaning, chances are that we won’t even know they’re doing it. I’m okay with that. I’m not okay with providing a child with an undeserved and avoidable hurdle right out of the gate. A name can say a lot though when it comes to making first impressions, so please, parents, consider the name you are giving to your child, because when it comes down to it, it will be them getting the nature wedgies in gym class – not you.





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