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Friday, July 3, 2009

What's in a Name?

Until this past Friday, I felt very nervous about the topic of Chinese names.

Most China-adoptive parents typically including their child's Chinese name as a middle or a second middle name. Those who know me in real life know that I am a huge proponent of this. And yet... call me a hypocrite, but...

To discover why I'm a hypocrite... why I chose to become a hypocrite... and why I still agonize about our decision... check out my post What's in a Name? at the group adoption blog Grown in my Heart.


Sharie said...

I did choose to keep part of Amelia's Chinese name as her middle name, but still wish I would have had more time to research before deciding. It seemed like I had to have her name immediately after referral.
We had our first exposure to her name not being "traditional" at Chinese school recently when her teacher said, "Her Chinese parents didn't give her that name?" Depending on the translation her name can mean spring flower or related to China - either way I liked it...and she does appreciate that I kept it.

That said, she may decide when she is older that she wants a traditional Chinese name - and I would support her in that change.
Whether choosing to keep her original name, part of it, or giving her a new name, NO parent can know what their child will want when they are older. It is our job as parents to do what we think is best for our child and you certainly did that!

(believe me I wish my parents would have spelled my name differently!)

Beach Mama said...

We chose to keep part of our daughter's names. We dropped their surnames because they were not real surnames, but rather the mage up surnmaes that orphanages often use. The Queen came to us at 10 months old. She only knows herself by her English name. She doesn't like it when we use her Chinese name because. I think because it is unfamiliar and hard to pronounce.

The Princess on the other hand, came to us at 2.5 years of age. She only knew herself by her Chinese name. There was a problem with the translation of her "first" name due to the local dialect and whoever translated the character. We went with the translation which we were told was the correct one; however; the Pinyin on all of her documents used the incorrect translation. They sound similiar, but mean vastly different things. Has to do with the traditional vereses simple characters. We mostly call her by her Chinese name using the dialect pronunciation as that it how she identifies herself.

I know, convoluted...

Sherri said...

We are one of the few who didn't keep the Chinese name of our daughters when we named them. We do tell them their Chinese names, and when they meet Chinese people, they are able to tell them what their names are.

Olivia's name has a beautiful meaning. It was described to my by a Chinese friend as a *gasp* the way a fresh spring breeze catches your breath. She seemed to really think that name is a beautiful name. For whatever reason, we didn't keep it as her middle name.

Mia's name is more similar to what your swi named their children. When we would tell the vendors her name, and show them the characters, they wouldn't want to make the name calligraphy for us. Its meaning would have forever distinguished her as being inferior. So I'm glad we didn't keep either girl's Chinese name, because both girls are the same in that respect.

Johnny said...

We did not keep the Chinese name in any part of their legal name. I think I can speak with authority because my original Chinese name is now my middle name. And as a kid in this white society, it was and is a PAIN-in-the-you-know-what to have to include that in legal documents. Also, having people stumble over the name is just a reminder that YOU ARE DIFFERENT! YES YOU!

If you pull the analogy far back enough (in reference to those posts about erasing their identity by erasing their orphanage names), then didn't you (we really) start the erasure the moment we adopted them?

Or pulling back even further, weren't their names first erased the moment their parents abandoned them to be found?

Why does everyone assume that their birth name was "Baby we'll abandon"?

Duh, your (our) kid had 3 names by now - not counting nicknames.

The Source said...

I thought this was a beautiful and thoughtful post. I'm glad the Tongginator approves her names now and think it's wonderful that you would support her if she decided to change them later in life. I only know what you've called her in email...not sure if that's her name-name or nickname or what, but it's really cute and seems like it fits her personality to a T!

I've never thought how difficult it must be to chose a name for a child who already had one. Although with the SWI naming children something less than desirable I understand not keeping her original names. Why on earth would they name children names that people would not even want to write?

I REALLY wish we had named one of our twins differently because heaven help us...insurance companies have a real problem understanding a child having his dad's FIRST name, but not his second...and the same initials, too.

You may need to be on standby for me in a dozen years or so if Darling Daughter ever actually makes good on her plans to adopt from China one day. Because the names she SAYS she's going to use sound totally off the wall to me!!

bbmomof2boys said...

You already know that we didn't include her Chinese name in Little T's name. Do I regret it? Sometimes, most times not. Big T was against using it so I didn't push. I use her Chinese name though and she recognizes it. I was visiting another Chinese friend that I used to work with yesterday. I've never known the meaning of her name (I know, I know) but Li told me it meant Angel flying down from heaven or celestial being. How beautiful!! Little T is just that, our angel from heaven!

She will have a choice as she gets older, to be called by her Chinese name or her American name.


Missy said...

Very interesting article and blog! Paige has a Chinese middle name, but it wasn't her given Chinese name...just one we love :)

LaLa said...

We did keep Annslee's..it is pretty to write and "easy" on the American tongue...she LOVES it...all the girls in her SWI born that year have the same first part of their first name so she likes that connection. We still use the nickname her foster family used and call her that probably half the time and that is what Coby calls her b/c NaNa is easy to say : )

Coby..we did keep his Vietnamese name..it is long for two syllables and he will hate us for it later (ThanhNhan) seriously : )

day by day said...

That was a great post...I enjoyed reading it!! Both of my girls have their Chinese names as their middle name and I can only hope as everyone else...that our decision is one that they will be happy with. But like you mentioned...they will always have the right to change it when they are older, if they so choose.

mumma to many said...

This is a hard topic.
We first had it with Aiden who was named this by his birth mother and since he was 4.5 months old when we meet him and have an open adoption we kept it. I would have named him a different A name!We did add in James as a second name we kept a name his Birthfather wanted and his mother's maiden name then our surname!
Yes 5 names in total!
Well then 8 years later came along Emily and we named her Emily Jane kept her 2 other chinese names and gave her our Surname
And same thing for Alice Sandra two chinese names and our family name
All our children have 5 names 5 letters in their first name and Keith and I have 5 names between us!
we use the girls Chinese names and even though they might not be the prettiest meanings they are their names and we love them for that!
Our care agency has to step in when names aren't nice here!
We had a family who wanted to name their daught Useless C%%t yes you read it right! We also have families naming their kids Benson Hedges after cigarettes!
I think that yes their identity they had prior to us is important and you acknowledge through your stories with her.
We all have the right to make our own decisions and been named after a great Aunt who died childless I think was very stink!
But then again there is never many Ruth's around!
Sending you big hugs!

Sherri said...

By the way, when I was a little girl, I always wished my mother had named me Linda or Michelle.

Every kids goes through the name issue at some point.

Krista ~ Bits and pieces said...

I adore your writing and understand your decision. We did keep Bella's name that was given to her in the orphange, for two reasons: One the meaning of her name An-Yuan, means peaceful beauty. It fit her then and it fits her now. The other reason was we wanted to keep something from her first 13 months of life as a tribute to where we all were prior to that moment 4 years ago when we became a family. So her first name Isabella, we chose, An-Yuan was chosen, and our last name P-------- was given, freely because of love.

With love,


PS Happy 4th my friend!

Gina (Caleeo) said...

Great post - thanks for sharing it. I am always interested in the thought process behind names.

Shawnstribe said...

i loved reading it too, X X has been X X from the day we became a family, she is only now wanting to be called Aila Mei....
Happy 4th and thank you for the blog invite : )

Kris said...

I completely understand your decision and loved this post- and it was an easy decision for me to keep Gao Mei as Ellis' middle name, especially at her age (3.5)- and especially since her nannies have called her that for the last 3 years and often, as I'm told, "Mei Mei" (which interestingly, in this case, means, "beautiful eyebrows"). I was surprised by Johnny's comment though and hope that she doesn't feel at all burdened by the name, and have grappled with adding an English middle name as well, but find her Chinese one to be so beautiful (and the meaning too, tall or lofty plum blossom) that it's hard to think of incorporating yet another name...

Thanks for this post.

Kris said...

ps. i guess my only counter to J is that i hope to help her EMBRACE her difference. she IS different and that is a wonderful thing.

Jean said...

I think you made the right decision! Plus you have been totally up front with her and will help her change it if she chooses. We did 3 names- their chinese name is the third- it sounded better that way- name flowed- however if they want they can choose to drop one of their middle names. If they want to be called by their chinese name we are okay with that, too. They seem to experiment with a name change but end up going back to the first name that we chose for them.
It is an especially interesting topic with older child adoption- I may have to blog on that!!