From Barcelona: Naming my baby girl

From Barcelona: Naming my baby girl

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Baby naming just got tougher when you want one that Spaniards and English-speaking people can pronounce. Blogger Jeremy Holland on how to avoid pitfalls of the name game.

Picking the name for your baby is one of the first big decisions for expecting parents. After all, what you call your child will play a key role in your progeny's personal development.  

One only needs to listen to the Johnny Cash song A Boy Called Sue to know that.  

While coming to an agreement is never easy, having parents from different countries who speak different languages presents a new set of interesting complications.  

In Spain, there's the tradition of naming your child after religious figures or situations.  In fact kids here not only celebrate their birthday, but also the day of the saint or religious holiday that they're named after.  

So, other than the various Virgins who serve as inspiration for such girls' names as Macarena (yes, like the song) or Mercedes (like the car), there is also the option of: Concepción Inmaculada (the Immaculate Conception), Ascensión/Asunción (the ascension) and Dolores (pains as in the Friday of Pain).  

Boys' names often combine biblical personalities such as Jose Maria (Joseph Mary) or Juan Miguel (John Michael) or Juan Jose (John Joseph), which are in turn shortened and pronounced Josema (Hose-emma), Juanmi (Who-an-me), and Juanjo (Who-an-hoe) respectively.  

All of which is perfectly normal in a country where it's also not unusual to use the same name for your child that you and your father or mother have, but imagine what will happen if your kid spent any time in the States, the UK or any other English-speaking country.  

Likewise, if you decide to give your offspring an English name, you can expect Spaniards to quickly find their equivalent, making it moot.  

In other words George becomes Jorge (Whore-hey), Josephine-Josefina (Hose-effeena) and  James-Jaime (High-may) whether you like it or not.  

And if you elect a shortened version of a traditional name like say Joe, then you run the risk of Spanish kids calling him "Fuck" like in "Joé que calor" (fuck it's hot).  

Which isn't to say there aren't Spanish kids with English names like Jenifer, Jonatan, Kevin, the problem is that they carry with them the stereotype similar to being from the Valley in LA or Essex in the UK if you know what I mean.

Then, there's the whole question of pronunciation.  Any English name with a "J" will give Spanish people a fit because it doesn't exist in the Spanish language. So you can forget names such as Jeffrey or Josh for a boy or Jane for a girl, while the English desire to combine vowel sounds make Spanish names like Mireia or Iago a nightmare for those relatives not from Spain.

So with seemingly 80 percent of Spanish and English names eliminated, you're left with a smaller pool to argue over with your partner.  

But be careful: because even when you finally decide on a name, you have to make sure that it passes with the Spanish bureaucracy who has been known to refuse Sam and Katie due to them being shortened versions of Samuel and Katherine, and thus not allowed.

As for my daughter, we finally picked a local unique name that Americans would be able to pronounce. The precious princess’s name is Elisenda and is the name of an old Catalan queen. There's also a monastery named after her.  

All the things we mixed nationality parents must think about when it comes to choosing a name.

Jeremy Holland / Expatica

Written by an American expat, From Barcelona, is a blog dedicated to the city, the life and the people of the capital of Catalunya (Catalonia).

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4 Comments To This Article

  • frombarcelona posted:

    on 17th September 2009, 15:50:46 - Reply

    Thanks all for the tips and comments. In the end we named her after a train station - reina elisenda
  • M posted:

    on 29th July 2009, 20:07:39 - Reply

    Then again, it is always possible that you try to find a Spanish name, and forget how ridiculous it sounds in English combined with the English surname.
    A recent arrival at my company has named their baby girl as something which sounds exactly like an equivalent of "Widened Vagina" in american english. Presumably she wasn't delivered by Caeserian.
  • mfm posted:

    on 27th July 2009, 18:46:20 - Reply

    imagine my situation, my baby should have a speakable name in spanish and german!.
  • jbdblanco posted:

    on 23rd July 2009, 05:05:15 - Reply

    [Edited by moderator] i am white american and my daughter is named aracelis soet dreher, she uses celie and cici when around americans and aracelis with hispanos she is white and does not look at all hispanic or boricua of spanish and nigerian ancestry. don't worry, ok. she has an old spanish first name, an israeli middle name, and my german surname and sometimes rosario mother's surname. cannot always worry about others, johnny, usa