Names and different cultures

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?s=&threadid=109977

Is it just me or is it veering in the direction of racism to criticise names given by other cultures because they are not nice normal white bread mainstream American names?

My kids have Eastern European names. Guess what? They’ve got Eastern European ancestry. I find it fucked in the extreme for people to make fun of names from other cultures.

And FlamsteretteX? Oriental is not an all right way to refer to people of Asian extraction. If you were transplanted to downtown Beijing are you absolutely confident that you could choose a name for a child that you liked and that was culturally appropriate?

I don’t have a difficulty with weird name threads – but I’m feeling really uncomfortable with the veiled and not so veiled racism emerging in that thread. It’s bizarre to question why a parent from the Middle East would call a kid Osama Bin Laden. I’d wonder about the sanity of a parent in downtown New York who used that name but geez.

… [smooch] would I wade through a three-page MPSIMS thread, with the server’s hamster wheezing and groaning in a truly frightening manner. :smiley:

Okay, you’re right. From Page 2:

I know a junior high school girl named Ophelia (“Fee” to her friends). Would it only be a weird name if she were “Oriental”? If I told you she was Jewish, would it still be a weird name? Would it still be a weird name if she were “white”? Or “black”?

From Page 3:

Flamsterette, honey, here’s a hint: dig UP. :smiley:

So, you seem to feel that certain names are ethnically appropriate for certain “races”?

This is the logical extension of your thought, and this is what we’re objecting to:
[ul]
[li]. It seems to me that some Jews choose funny names for their children; nothing against that, of course. [/li][li]. It seems to me that some blacks choose funny names for their children; nothing against that, of course. [/li][li]. It seems to me that some gays choose funny names for their children; nothing against that, of course. [/li][/ul]
See? :wink:

Well, it’s a free country, I guess you’re entitled to your opinion. [shrug] Probably not worth an entire Pit thread, but hey, I’m happy to hold your jacket, Prima. :smiley:

Primaflora - I am so there with you. I was amused yet offended after I initially read the thread, not so much with the thread as with Institute for Naming Children Humanely homepage.

The following quote really got my goat:

:confused: whats with that :confused:

Anyway’s Wazza, Gazza and Bazza are just on their way over, then were gonna the pub ta meet up with Merl and Pearl :slight_smile:

not to mention:

Thus, they manage to get in the offensiveness of implying that Iranians and Iraqis all just LOVE murdering dictators as well as the cluelessness of being surprised that they wouldn’t give their kids a German name (rather than … oh, I dunno… an Iraqi or Iranian name f’rinstance)

I didn’t see anything particularly offensive in the SDMB thread itself, mind you. Perhaps that just proves how superior dopers are to the general population. Or just that I don’t have as much patience as Duck Duck Goose. :smiley:

Hmmm… yes and no. Statements like “It seems to me that some Oriental people choose funny names for their children” at very least count as poorly phrased, yet I think it’s possible to find a name strange because of mixed ethnicity. I know an Italian couple who named their son Lachlan Martino, and I find it doesn’t sound right to me because Lachlan is so very NOT Italian; yet I’d never deny them the right to name their son whatever they please. My baby name book has a chapter at the front that warns that mixing ethnicities may produce names that others find laughable, and includes the sample name “Mario Murphy” to illustrate the point.

I have noticed that many Asian families have given their children perfectly nice and acceptable names, but they don’t tend to be as influenced by fashion. The names listed by Flamsterette (Mavis, Charity, etc) are good examples of this. Mavis is a lovely name, but is no longer in fashion and so is rarely used these days.

Maybe your reading a bit too much into this. I take her to have said, more or less, that certain names are culturally “appropriate.” Which is true. It would seem a bit odd if the family down the street whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower with William the Conqueror (or whatever) started giving their children traditional Chinese names.

In fact, the reverse is actually quite usual. I’m constantly running into people from other cultures who have adopted English names to accomodate foreigners. You’ll find that there are very few people from, say, Nepal, actually named “Fred.” I make it a point to learn and use their real names. Though, there’s occasionally some initial resistance, people are inevitably very pleased that you a)recognize that aspect of their culture and b) are willing to make the effort.

Let me tell a brief story to illustrate the perils of cross-cultural naming. I met woman with a Thai mother and a German father who spoke perfect English but grew up in Germany. The father did a very stupid thing. He allowed the mother to name their daughter.

On meeting any new person, the women would introduce herself like this, and I quote

** This line was delivered in a tone of voice that allowed only one answer, “Err, Nice to meet you!”

The moral of the story is that some names, are, indeed, culturally appropriate, while others are not. Porn is a perfectly common and appropriate name in Thailand. It’s neither approriate nor common in North America or the UK.

By the way, any parents with the last name of “Starr” that attempt to use this name on a birth certificate ought to be euthanized at the hospital.

BTW, it appears that Flamsterette_X is of Asian descent. That kind of puts a different light on the whole “Oriental” thing.

Primaflora, I had a feeling this thread was about my (perhaps ill-advised) thread when I saw the title!

If the name you chose for your child wasn’t a nice, normal “whitebread” kind of name, then so be it. I’m just trying to see what other names might be considered odd. I’m not trying to be racist, despite what you may think.

I have no problem with cultural names being used for different ethnicities; hey, if you were Scottish and decided to name your kid something like Murtagh MacKenzie, I’d say more power to you!

There is absolutely nothing wrong with using names that haven’t been in general use for a fair bit of time, and despite what I said in my thread, those aren’t really funny names, per se. However, I only wished to point out that using the names seems to be a :Chinese immigrant" thing to do at times. That’s what I have noticed, and that’s what I meant, if it wasn’t clear enough. Of course, if it’s not that kind of thing to do, then I’ll let the subject alone.

As for why it might be bizarre for a mother from the Middle East to choose the name Osama for her child, it’s her decision to name the child as she sees fit, of course… but what of the associations with the name, especially nowadays? I’m not saying that she could have chosen a better name for her child, but these days, it seems like a rather strange choice.

Never mind my own assessment of whether I could choose a name for my child if I were transported to another country… I would certainly hope so! If I felt I couldn’t, I would say so, and admit that I needed help! Not to say that the parents of these kids needed help and didn’t ask for it, but some of the more bizarre names in that thread? Let’s just say that I have a feeling that the kids would have been named that certain name even if the parents did ask for help!

If you think that I’m racist, then so be it. But before you depart in high dudgeon, Primaflora, please notice that I am not denigrating East Indians for naming their kid Sukhdip (for example) when they live in Canada or the States (or anywhere else, for that matter), and not in India. However, if I seemed racist or something of the sort to you, then I would like to know how I could improve, so I can conform exactly to the excellent mold and specifications that you yourself obviously come from. :rolleyes:

Can you really say that you are more cultured and less “racist” than I am? You may very well be, and more power to you if you are. But I would suggest that you don’t try to examine my motives for me, thanks very much!

Duck Duck Goose, if you feel that that is the logical extension of my thought, then I admit it seems rather stark. However, I did not mean it that way. I admit that some names seem as if they belong to a certain ethnicity; for example, if a Caucasian named his kid Baljit Jones, it would sound a little jarring to the ear. (unless the kid had East Indian ancestry somehow) I’m not against weird-sounding names, and I invite people to use different ethnic names for their children… however, there’s something odd about a kid named (for example) Manraj Turnbull. (I remember a kid named Ayako Turnbull, but I figured she had Japanese ancestry somewhere)

Of course, parents are free to pick and choose names for their children irregardless of ethnicity and whether it sounds “nice” or “euphonious”; but sometimes the choices they make jsut happen to stagger me. That’s essentially why I started the thread. I’m sorry you happen to disagree with me about this, but there’s nothing I can do to ameliorate the problem.

cazzle, I admit that some of what I said may have been poorly phrased, but it’s there now… and i apologize if it seems so to you. I remember reading a book that’s probably similar to the one you have: it had a section on mixing of ethnicities amd how it might be laughable. (or the very least, odd-sounding) There is nothing wrong with NOT being influenced by fashion; I don’t particularly like some of the trendy names out now (Britney, for example), but some of them aren’t too bad. (Mackenize and Michaela, for example)

I read another baby name book (or it may have been the same one) that warned against giving your kids TOO trendy a name… just think of all the Grandma Mackenzies (pr indeed the Grandpa Mackenzies) we’re going to have in 50 years’ time! Nothing wrong with that, of course… it’s just that right now, it sounds odd to the ears.

leechbabe, I haven’t been to that webpage yet; I think I might check it out some other time when it in’t past 1 AM and all I want to do is sleep! (or at the very least, submit this reply before I do other things)

Truth Seeker, that is exactly what I was trying to say! Some names are culturally appropriate, and definitely do not work if used in another culture!

As for the name Porn, I saw that in my baby name book as well, but deicided not to use it in my posts in the thread. Frankly, I had forgotten that it was there. (and might not have used it in any case)

If people actually named their kid “Porn Starr”, that kid would be traumatized for life, I’m sure! My friend was just saying to me (like five minutes ago) that he’s sure that there are people out there dumb enough to do that; I’d hope not, but you never know about these things! :eek:

I wasn’t aware that "oriental’ isn’t a politically correct term. Thanks (seriously) for mentioning that.

I’ve read that thread and other posts by Flamsterette_X and I don’t think she’s racist. Not even veiled or unintentionally. As Cazzle said, “It seems to me that some Oriental people choose funny names for their children” is poorly phrased.

Maybe she is only pointing out examples of unusual names picked by asian immigrants because she associates with quite a few asian immigrants. I really don’t get the sense of any malice or even ridicule.

Yes, you’re right. My parents were originally from Hong Kong. If I offended anyone by my usage of the term “Oriental”, I sincerely apologize. I would have used the term “Asian”, but Aisa itself encompasses so many countries and culrues that I’m not sure that there is a one dixtinct homogenous “Asian culture”! And as for why I didn’t use the term “Chinese”, I did later on in the thread. :stuck_out_tongue: So I decided to use “Oriental” because I couldn’t think of anything else, and I wanted to have an adjective to describe these people.

Years ago I knew a guy who was born and raised in the US, but his parents wanted to name him in their native language. His name was Tran-Hsin (spelling might be off). As professors would struggle to pronounce his name from their attendance roster, he would clear his throat and say very plainly ‘I pronounce that ‘Danny.’’

I never saw a professor who didn’t look somewhat relieved, and I asked him if that bothered him. He told me it didn’t, because his parents “didn’t have enough sense to name [him] something English speaking people could pronounce.”

I told him it doesn’t matter, I have a very short fairly common name and native English speakers screw it up all the time. :smiley:

SIlly question:

I was unaware that “Oriental” was politically incorrect. Why is it?

I heard it explained once in a ‘diversity’ seminar as:

Oriental refers to objects. (rugs, art, chairs)
Asian refers to people.

Other than that, I never heard a reason.

Just FYI - the term “oriental” is not politically incorrect here in the UK - it is simply used to describe people from the Orient. The term “Asian” is mainly used to describe people from India and Pakistan.

It didn’t use to be even as recently as the mid 1980s in the US. However, times change. There are some older threads on this that caused me to re-evaluate the word oriental. As far as I can ascertain, and I have tried a lot of different approaches, the term oriental is a colonial European term and as such contains an inherent negative bias.

Please remember that the terms asian and oriental are not synonomous in the UK and generally speaking in Commonwealth countries. The terms Asian and Oriental are both 100% acceptable in Asia. However, in the US, Oriental has become a PC incorrect word
.

A politically correct incorrect word eh? :wink:

I’d always thought of “Oriental” as the opposite of “Occidental,” not that people use occidental much anyways. I used to put it as a fill-in-the-blank ethnicity on public school tests years ago, but that’s about it. Is “occidental” a bad word now too, or has “oriental” become one through misuse?

While I might think the names that Chinese (and other) immigrants choose for thier children might be a little off the beaten track, I certainly respect their right to name their kids whatever they want!

And you know, heresiarch, you’re right in your supposition that I’m not racist. I certainly try not to be! It’s just that, as you said, I associate with a lot of Asian immigrants (this vity is maybe around 40% Asian, if not more) and just happened to remark upon the names they choose for their children… that’s all. There is absolutely nothing erong with names like Minerva, or indeed Chinese names… but you have to make sure that other people can pronounce them!

Maybe, maybe not. After all, Americans still name their kids Lee, Timothy, Jeffrey, Charles, Theodore, David and Richard.