When pregnant with my first daughter, I bought several baby name books. I spent hours poring over each and every name, making lists of what I liked, what the names meant, how they sounded together. Americans tend to simply select names they like, often some sort of connection with family names. Sometimes, as with celebrities, totally bizarre names are chosen. It’s good to be different, they must figure.
While my baby naming days are long over, I did keep one book that was special to me. It gave name descriptions by spiritual origin and meaning, and I just knew I wanted to hang on to it. Little did I know it’d come in handy here and now.
I was asked to give an English name to a young Chinese woman. Here’s the story.
We’ve become quite close to my husband’s former assistant, Claire, and her family. There have been many meals shared, gifts given, and my daughters even served as attendants in a family wedding. Now I’ve been asked to find a name for Claire’s son’s girlfriend – apparently things are getting serious.
Our family has met her and she’s a lovely girl. Not speaking the same language, there was only so much we could infer about her personality. So, to name her? What if I get it wrong? What if they despise the name I select, but feel obligated to keep it anyway? Names are so significant in China, and I want to get it right. While I realize this is an honor, it almost feels like a burden.
I’m so glad I had that book here with me. While the spiritual significance might not apply, I was able to browse through the book once again and see what might fit this person I know so little about. Using the descriptions given to me as well as our own impressions, I decided to narrow things down a bit. I then provided them with three names that we, as a family, liked for this young woman. I am hopeful that I did my part by making suggestions and helping them through the process, while ultimately having them select what they believe suits best.
Now it’s as if I’m waiting for a baby to be born all over again. Instead of saying, “What is it?” I’ll be saying “What’s her name?”