We had a number of criteria when choosing our son’s name. To make it slightly more complicated we chose not to know his sex until he was born. Here in Brazil this is almost unheard of and actually led to a couple of barbed comments from certain people.
We spent a long time discussing various names, and most of the ones we came up with we discarded for some of the reasons below.
Two languages, one name
We wanted a name that would work in both English and Portuguese. It didn’t have to have exactly the same pronunciation, but we wanted people in either culture to read the name and recognise it. This meant that a lot of traditional Irish names were out of the running because Brazilians would have no idea how to pronounce it. I can remember what it was like at school for other kids who had exotic names and some of the teachers would make a right meal out of saying them, to giggles from all of the other students. I didn’t particularly want anything like this to happen to my son.
We live in a very Christian country but my wife is not particularly religous and I am positivly anti-religion. I didn’t want to have a name that would always be asociated with the Bible, so names like Christian or Pedro/Peter were out.
There are some names that just sound wrong. Here in Brazil Arthur is quite a common name, but whenever I hear it I just imagine it being said in Cockney accent on Eastenders (recently this image has been waning a bit). I like the name Douglas, after Douglas Adams, but even I have to admit that it sounds really bad in Portuguese.
No family and friends
Neither of us wanted a name that was already taken by somebody else in our close families, or that one of our friends had given to their kids. It shows a lack of imagination and can get very confusing, nevermind the fact that our son might have to live up (or down) to the original person. I like the name Alex, but that is my father-in-law’s name. We both like the name Jack, but I have a friend with a son of the same name, and a cousin.
In the end, about the only name we could agree on was Thomas, but we still waited until he was born to decide for sure. It is a religous name, as Thomas was one of the 12 disciples, but at least he had the good sense to ask for evidence. The name works in both languages, with only a slight difference in word stress. There are a number of positive connotations for me when I hear the name; Thomas Beckett, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison, Dylan Thomas, Thomas Payne (my favourite) and Thomas Morem, although I hate Tom Cruise and I am not sure about Thomas Aquinas, which is the name of my old school. And finally, I can’t think of any close relatives or friends’ kids who have the same name.
If we had had a girl then it would have been a lot more complicated as we couldn’t really decide on anything. If we have another child (and that is a big if at the moment) the name choosing will be even more problematic as we don’t have anything that we agree on anymore.
That’s Not My Name: thepiripirilexicon.com
Naming Our (Future) Bilingual Baby: spanglishbaby.com
How To Name A Child When You’re An Expat: The European Mama