Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Name Game

Since I just shared the name for our newest addition, I thought I'd share a bit about how all of our kids got their names.  I know I enjoy hearing other families share how they chose the names for their kids and I think when you add in the element of adoption, it adds another wrinkle into the conversation.

Let's start with kiddo #1.  Kenson was named by his birth aunt.  We thought to ask how he got his name during one of our meetings with his birth mom and I am so glad we did.  His aunt picked the name (which is relatively common in Haiti) because she liked it.  Mackenson is actually more common but you do occasionally see just plain Kenson.  His birth mom's last name is Jules.  The Haitian adoption decrees actually list the child's name with their given name, their Haitian last name as a middle name, and their new last name as the surname.  That is exactly how we kept it.  We liked the sound of Kenson and thought Jules fit well as a middle name.

For kiddo #2, her story is a little more interesting.  Her birth name is actually Youmie.  However, when she came into the orphanage, she was renamed Jemima by someone on the staff.  (Or possible Djemima.)  After a few months in the orphanage, she was taken into a foster home.  Her foster mom, Nancy, is American and knew that Jemima would not be culturally acceptable in the US so she renamed her Conleigh.  It was a name Nancy had loved.  So when she came into our life, she was being called Conleigh.  We liked that name as well and once we found out her Haitian last name was Dume', it was easy to decide to keep that as her middle name.  We changed the spelling on Dume' so it is more phonetic in English (Deme').

With Zeke, he was named by someone on the orphanage staff as he was a very small infant at the time he came to live in the orphanage.  The Chinese name they chose was Luo FuKang.  In Chinese, the family name is first so Luo is more like the last name.  It is possible than many of the children who were under the supervision of his orphanage share the surname Luo.  Fu Kang is actually two Chinese words.  Without having the actual characters, it can be harder to know what they mean but we were told on his referral documents that "healthy" was part of the meaning.  It is also common practice in China to give a nickname that repeats one of these names so his foster family was calling him "Kang Kang" which is pronounced more like "Kung" than "Kang".  Unfortunately, to American eyes and ears, none of those Chinese names really translate well.  They are not phonetic so they will be mispronounced.  Fu Kang is similar to a swear word.  And having a distinctly "foreign" sounding name can be something that right from the get go signals you are adopted or different.  We decided to choose a name we liked for the first name and find something that honored his Chinese heritage for a middle name.   We ended up narrowing our choices to Gideon and Ezekiel, based mostly on the sound of the names.  D ended up finding the middle name.  Jian is a Chinese word that shares the meaning of healthy, much like the original intent of the name he was given in China.

With adoption, there isn't necessarily a right way to proceed.  Sometimes, the best option is to completely rename because a child needs a new start, because the name is hard to pronounce, because all of the kids in the adoptive family have names that fit a certain pattern and the child would be left out, etc..  And sometimes, there are good reasons to keep their names.  Perhaps a birth mom thoughtfully chose the name.  Or it's an older child who just can't imagine losing that part of their identity.

The last kiddo on the list is Malachi.  Call it a blank slate if you will.  But for two teachers, starting with a blank slate can be a daunting task.  My husband sees about 650 kids a year.  He has been teaching for ten years as have I.  The sheer number of names we know and associate (both good and bad) with kids is pretty high.  We like unique but not too unique, but also don't want our child to be the 4th "Jacob" in his grade or to be constantly reminded of a certain child every time we use our child's name.  Names we liked but disregarded for one reason or another included Ezra, Elias, Burke, and Zekiah.  D of course used soccer as his inspiration and was really rooting for Breck or Beckham but those two names did nothing for me.  We ended up on Malachi, again because we liked the sound.  Kai just seemed like a great nickname and it seemed to fit with our other 3 who all have a hard c sound in their names.  We also liked how there was a more "grown up" version in Malachi should he ever get tired of being Kai.  We decided we would use a middle name that reflected cultural and family heritage, just like our other three children which is how we ended up at Stillman.  Stillman Gates is a great, great, great (maybe one more great?) grandfather on my grandmother's side of the family.  His claim to fame is that he settled in Custer County and founded a small community named Gates.

So that's the scoop...got any interesting name stories you want to share?


Amber said...

Thanks for sharing! I really enjoy reading your posts. We have an interesting name story regarding our daughter. My husband and I knew before we even started the adoption process that we wanted to name our first daughter Ciela, which means heaven or sky in Spanish. On the day we were matched with our daughter and saw her picture for the first time, we'd both worked the whole night and were so overtired we could hardly think. One of the only questions we thought to ask about her that day was her name and we were so surprised to learn that her birth name was Heaven. It's one the many ways we know that we were meant to be a family.

Kathy C. said...

We kept Fredlin and Frednise as middle names. THey were so much younger when we decided to rename them and told everyone or we might have kept them as first names. But I wasn't sure what classmates would do with those names--Freddy & Freddy? And Fred rhymes with too much. BUT DOING it over, I would chose a different name for Kayla because it is very hard to tell Kaleb and Kayla apart when spoken. We are constantly having someone hear it wrong. I was trying to match them in Haitian tradition but I'd use Kaylee or Kaylin instead. Who knew?