When you’re in a cross-cultural relationship, the baby naming game takes on a special level of complexity.
Take me and my Turkish husband. Like many expectant parents, we agonized over the choice of name.
The good news is that there are only a handful of names that work in both English and Turkish, and we had exhausted most of them when we named our first son.
So when it came time to pick a name for our second child, the process was much easier.
That is until after our son was born.
High on post-partum endorphins, I was happy to oblige when my husband asked if my mother-in-law could choose our newborn son’s middle name. I wasn’t that attached to Eren, the name we’d picked and, besides, I thought, “It’s only a middle name. Does it really matter?”
Which is how my son ended up with the middle name “Zafer” (pronounced ZAH, fair).
I guess I should’ve seen it coming. After all, Muzaffer is my husband’s father’s name. My mother-in-law chose the shortened form, Zafer, in honor of her husband.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Zafer is a perfectly fine name but it doesn’t exactly roll off my tongue.
Then again, most Turkish words don’t. But that’s a story for another post.
Tips for Choosing a non-English Name for Your Child
Teach your child how to politely correct people when they mis-pronounce his name. Trust me, it’s gonna’ happen.
Prep your child for the likely possibility that his extended family may pronounce his Anglicized name differently or, as in the case of my in-laws, call him by his alternate name. Initially, my son would bristle when his Turkish relatives called him “Zafer” but, with gentle reminders from me and his dad, he’s learned to roll with it.
Help your child embrace his heritage by talking to him about notable people who share his name. For example, “Zafer” comes from the Arabic “Zafir” which means “victorious”. Once my super hero-obsessed son found that out, he was thrilled.
What about you? Is there an interesting story behind your name? Or someone else in your family? Tell us about it in the comment box below.
Sign up for the free weekly email for more culture tips, resources and real-life stories.
A version of this post appeared on The Parenting Connection on June 11, 2011.