What is In Your Name?

What is your Name? Is the first question that we learn the answer for. The name that we so proudly bear is often decided by other people. We could be named by the toss of a coin or some other such arbitrary method. Each culture, country and civilization has devised its own tried and tested methodology.

In India most often we are named on the whims of a holy man who dreams up starting letters for the name of the lucky baby. If he comes up with difficult sounds like Dhh, Ghh or zhu then tough luck. Sometimes these holy men are also responsible adding the extra K’s and I’s in names of struggling business men, wannabe actors and new serials. Indians also believe in giving a meaningful and profound name to the child. So searching for a profound name which begins with Zhu could be quite a task.

Down south a new and cool method for naming a kid is by smashing together the names of the parents and seeing what wonderful sounds it makes. So a Lisa and Joseph will name their eldest Lijo and the younger one could be Joli. In the north of India the names given to children are most often tried and tested and safe names like Neha, Govind and Pooja. It is the nick names like Pappu, Gotiya and Potty (true story) that become cause for heart burn as an adult. Intelligent folks who have deep understanding of science and molecular matters come up with names like Proton, Neutron and Electron (again true story). There are parents who could not decide on one name for their progeny and kids are stuck with multiple names on their passport application form.

The Balinese in Indonesia simplified the whole process and developed a fool proof method based on the order of the birth. All first born irrespective of gender are named Watan, Gede or Putu. The second born are named Made or Kedek . The children born third are named Nyoman or Komang and the fourth born is called Ketut. So if you come across sign boards in Bali claiming ‘I Made John’ or ‘ I Made Govind’ do not mistake it as a proclamation of someone making a John or a Govind, it just happens to be someone’s name plate.

I Made John (2)
Balinese Name – I Made John.

In the Christian world kids are most often named after a saint or a biblical character, second only to being named after a grandfather or a beloved aunt. If the same name is to be used in each generation then adding a roman numerical or Jr is the way to go. Most Chinese parents in an attempt to assimilate with the evolving global economy give two names to the children. One is a traditional Chinese name like Zhu and the other name could be an anglicized and hyphenated John.

While naming a kid, most considerate parents also check how the name sounds in other popular languages or if there is scope of twisting a good well intentioned name in such a manner that their child gets teased for life. The scene from Life of Pi comes to mind where a poor but determined Piscine Molitor Patel aka Pissing goes on to create school history by writing the value of Pi all in an attempt to in-corrupt his name.

Some parents name their children after popular actors, politicians or any name that is the flavour of the month. So depending on the generation we have seen waves of Indira, Rajiv, Rahul, and Aishwarya. Some parents in a bid to make the kid famous use the name with the surname and all, so you could possibly meet little Indira Gandhi Chandrasekharan on the swing set one day throwing a tantrum. Google has slowly taken over the mantle when it comes to naming kids and strangely it seems to be throwing out similar unique names such as Vivaan and Vihaan to all new google searching parents.  What is up with that or am I just having a case of big corporation paranoia?

Originally written for IndianMomsConnect and cross-posted here.

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