Appreciating Names of All Cultures

Hi Berries! This post is a reply I left in the Hot Takes thread that really should probably be its own topic. I’d love to hear your thoughts!


I 100% agree with everyone who commented on the beauty of multicultural names!

I, too, wish that multicultural names were more universally accepted on NB, but I find myself in a slightly odd situation that I thought I’d ask everyone about. I realize the vast majority of names on my list or displayed in my UC are very western and, most of the time, are not particularly tied to any one traditionally oppressed nation. (I have had Irish and Welsh names in my list/UC often, and my train of thought there is that I have strong enough familial ties to [name_f]Ireland[/name_f] and [name_m]Wales[/name_m] to want to honor them in my list even though I probably wouldn’t feel comfortable taking those names if I ever did name a child.)

My general thoughts are that I definitely support names from all around the globe being used and displayed where appropriate, but as a white American myself I rather think it would be very disrespectful for me to display certain names on my own lists. It would seem an awful lot like saying, “I know you’ve faced centuries of oppression, but I really like this shiny pretty name so I’m going to put it in a display case.” In my early teen years I did do this sometimes, thinking I was appreciating other cultures, before realizing what that said.

But when I remove all those names from my list then I fall into the typical trap of excluding multicultural names from focus – which does make me want very much to find another outlet for appreciation.

All this to ask, what are everyone’s suggestions on appreciating and supporting multicultural names? Am I drastically overthinking this and it’s perfectly fine to display any name on one’s list, even where it might not be appropriate to use it in reality? I’m asking not just for my ignorant self but for all of us on Nameberry who want to respect and support everyone.

I try to make it clear on the “Names on NB That Make You Go WOW!” topic how amazing I think your names all are, but I’m not so sure that’s enough if we’re ever to get to the point where every culture is appreciated.

I realize I’m rambling, sorry if I don’t make any sense or if the answer is blindingly obvious and I’ve somehow managed to miss it. It’s just been on my mind a lot lately.

9 Likes

Hello! I get where you are coming from, I’m Russian, my husband is Israeli-[name_m]German[/name_m] and we live in the UK. With that, names were a recipe for disaster. I think that as a white person, I wouldn’t use any names that aren’t European, which sounds racist, but I don’t want to culture appropriate accidently (does that sound ignorant or clueless?). I also find it weird when I meet a person who has a Russian name but isn’t Russian at all. Names are really special in my culture, so I don’t like it that much. But, I guess I’m a hypocrite because my daughter is [name_f]Ginevra[/name_f] and we’re not Italian. So I can’t really pretend I’m all high and mighty for only giving my kids Russian, Hebrew or [name_m]German[/name_m] names.
As for diversifying Nameberry, I just don’t think people know about International names as much as “White” names. Maybe they don’t feel comfortable…I don’t know where I’m going with this anymore. I don’t want to offend anyone, so I’m going to stop.
Well, that’s my penny’s worth of scattered thoughts.
xxx

7 Likes

I’m just going to copy my reply from the other thread:
Perhaps I’m a little blunt when I say how can we ask NB (members) to appreciate multicultural names when we’re gatekeeping them at the same time? Everyone always says that NB is focused too much on a certain set of names but god-forbid someone puts a Japanese, Korean or Irish name in their signature because if you have no connection to that culture then you are obviously appropriating it.
It would never cross my mind that you were appropriating a culture because you are using a name you love on the one person most darling to you, especially if you are familiar with the origin of the name and appreciate the culture it comes from. There are certain names to avoid, of course, but generally people are very cool about sharing their culture. Who cares if you are 1/16 Welsh or 1/8 Japanese or have no blood connection at all if you have a “spiritual” (whether you have been there on holiday, lived there for a few months, have come to known the culture through friends or adore the cinema scene) connection to the country and love its culture.

16 Likes

My take on it:

It’s perfectly okay to share multicultural names in your UC, create combos with them, etc- as long as you are understanding and respectful of the origins.

When you’re naming real children, I don’t think it’s appropriate to use names of oppressed cultures you don’t belong to. However, when just talking about names you like, I think it’s perfectly okay to share and appreciate them!

20 Likes

This is a very interesting topic.
When people have been and are been oppressed, their culture means so much more to them. It’s more than just their identity, it’s something they have to fight for every day. Because of that, I wouldn’t feel comfortable using a name that originated from a culture that has suffered from oppression, unless I had ties to it (biological or not).
As for nameberry, I think it’s great to appreciate other cultures’ names in UCs. Plus it introduces people to new beautiful names! It becomes more serious when it concerns real children.

9 Likes

I’ve never thought there was a problem with having names from cultures you’re not part of on your list/user card. The cultural appropriation part comes in when the name would not be appropriate to use on a real child who isn’t part of the culture.

I think @coffeeorangecats has a section on her UC dedicated to these names.

I’ll be following this thread to hear more opinions. It’s not something I’ve thought about before.

8 Likes

Does use of the name actually offend a group?
Yes, then probably don’t use it anywhere.

Or are you being offended on the behalf of a group that you are not a part of?
Hmmm this seems questionable…

10 Likes

Second @EagleEyes comments.
Personally speaking ( sorry if people do not agree) I feel somewhat inclined to only use a name if there was actually a link to that culture/roots. For instance, I am [name_f]English[/name_f] but I have Greek/Scottish and [name_u]French[/name_u] ancestry and my partner has Scandinavian/Scottish ancestry I therefore feel more comfortable looking at names from these countries than I do any other country ( along with liking the British classics. That’s just me though. There are a ton of names out there that I like which are not necessarily of them origins either but that’s not to say I would use them. For instance I love the name [name_m]Vanya[/name_m] which is russian but I am not Russian and nor do I have any links or ties to the country so I’d feel less comfortable using it. ( This is only an opinion) and anyone who has used a name which isn’t part of their heritage/identity then zero judgement from me.

4 Likes

I definitely agree that irl people shouldn’t use names that are culturally appropriated. But I don’t see a problem with loving them and showing appreciation for them in a UC. That said, I personally tend to stick to European names for my own combos and such for that very reason. There are plenty of names from other cultures that I think are gorgeous, but I know I could never use them, so I just admire them from afar. They are definitely listed in my lists of favorite names, but I do choose to keep them out of my UC. That’s a personal choice, though, so to each their own. Everyone here has to come to their own conclusions on this, I suppose. :woman_shrugging:t3:

3 Likes

It’s silly to require a cultural link to use a name on a real human child. Many cultures have no problem with sharing their names! Fine if that’s your preference but crazy to “demand” this of other people.

8 Likes

I’m just going to quote @EagleEyes instead of posting my own reply because they captured my feelings perfectly.

3 Likes

First I think that there is a difference between your UC and an actual child.

Back when we had signatures instead of user cards I would do “themes.” (Signatures as a whole just felt more malleable, putting something on my UC feels so permanent haha) I remember doing a whole set of Greenlandic names.
I, personally, wouldn’t PM someone to tell them that [name_f]Saoirse[/name_f] is in their UC and I don’t think they should use it, but if someone posts “I’m naming a child ____ what do you think?” I’ll be more honest about the cultural nuances. Nameberry is a place for whimsy and creativity, I think your user card should show that.

But there’s also a limit… just because you aren’t naming and NB is a creative outlet for you doesn’t mean you should use [name_m]Cohen[/name_m] or [name_m]Adonai[/name_m] (just as examples) in your combos.

11 Likes

Honest question, which cultures would you deem as oppressed today that don’t share a language with non-oppressed cultures? I can think of Indigenous peoples in the Americas and Australia but would love some more input.

1 Like

Yes! This is part of the problem! When the privileged group gets to say which groups are oppressed and which aren’t.

3 Likes

Chipping in again to say that I personally think whether it’s “okay” to use a name from a culture you don’t “belong” to is very dependent on the name. Erin is an Irish name, but it’s been Anglicized and widespread for a long time; I do not have an issue with a non-Irish person using it. It just means “Ireland” and is a fun name. However, a name that has a meaning of particular importance and significance to a culture should be used with more care. For instance, it may not be appropriate for a non-Jewish person (like myself, though my partner is Jewish but that’s not relevant to my point) to use some religious Hebrew names (such as Hadassah, Chaveleh, Tova) as one’s Hebrew name holds great cultural significance especially to observant religious Jews. The Anglicized versions of those same names (Hadassah = Esther) are fine, imo. As many things are, it’s all YMMV and as long as things are done with respect and knowledge, things should be ok.

4 Likes

I think it varies depending on where in the world you are. For example, in the United States, I would say many names from non-European cultures would seem inappropriate on a white American child with no connections to that culture. In the US (that’s where I am, so that’s where I know the most about) there is a long history of name discrimination. They’ve done studies that show “white” names make it further in the job hiring process than non-white ethnic names when the resumes are identical. I wouldn’t think it would be appropriate to give these names to a white child, because they would pretty much be taking the benefits of the name but not facing the problems that people of that culture face.

Of course, I wouldn’t tell that to a young child who already has that type of name. But, I know I would discourage a white American from using a Nigerian name, Japanese name, or Native American name if they didn’t have a connection to that culture.

I hope this makes sense, this is just my take on it.

7 Likes

I think I should start this by saying 99% of my UC is me appreciating other cultures - hey, I didn’t grow up in an [name_f]English[/name_f] speaking country, so I can’t claim those as mine either. Where do we draw the line?

I contemplated for quite a while before putting Taeyang in my UC. [name_m]Will[/name_m] I ever use it? Unless I marry a Korean or find myself in Korea, it’s unlikely, but I need to appreciate it out loud.

The real twist is actually the Brazilian names in my UC (those very unrecognizable ones). They are not, in fact, “Brazilian” - they are native names. Anywhere else in the world, this would be a [name_u]Dakota[/name_u] situation, but in [name_u]Brazil[/name_u] it’s quite common naming practice within the general non-native population to use some of those names as appreciation of the native population (and because they’re common and cute). Now… who asked any natives if they’re ok with this? I for one would love to, but they’re not around the corner answering questions.
[name_f]Do[/name_f] I feel quite silly writing this and feeling like the answer would likely be “go away you child of colonizers”? Sure.

The point of all this? I have no idea, I guess I just needed a ramble.

4 Likes

I agree with everything @itsjustjack said.

I think if a name is heavily tied into one specific culture or religion, then it should not be used by people who share no connection to that culture or religion. For example, I am not Muslim so wouldn’t name my son [name_m]Mohammed[/name_m], I am not Jewish so wouldn’t name my son Melech, and I am not [name_u]Christian[/name_u] so wouldn’t name my son [name_u]Christian[/name_u] (this was the only name I could think of). But I think it’s fine to still appreciate those names for their sound, meaning and origin.

I think only names that have become almost globalised can be used to appreciate cultures that you do not have a connection to. For example, using [name_f]Aida[/name_f] or [name_f]Zahra[/name_f] to appreciate Arabic/Islamic culture and [name_f]Leah[/name_f] or [name_u]Noah[/name_u] to appreciate Hebrew/Jewish culture.

I love the names [name_f]Alya[/name_f], [name_f]Zahra[/name_f] and [name_f]Yasmin[/name_f] for girls and [name_m]Jameel[/name_m] and [name_m]Ayman[/name_m] for boys. But as they’re all Arabic names, I personally would not consider using them as I have no ancestral connection to any Arabic or Islamic country, even though some of them are widely used in Western countries today.

I hope my ramble makes sense and doesn’t offend anyone :slightly_smiling_face:

3 Likes

I personally think it’s okay for people to like and appreciate names of other cultures and have no problem with them being on their UC. They are after all names that you like and maybe even fantasise about using and it’s nice to see multicultural names getting some recognition.

However, once it came to actually naming a child I wouldn’t judge but if asked for my opinion and thoughts, I would definitely point out that perhaps it wouldn’t be the best name to use.

i.e. I love Irish and Cornish names and despite them not being on my UC (as I don’t have one), they’re in the list I keep on my name notebook. I wouldn’t use them but I still love seeing and appreciating them.

4 Likes

I agree with bascially everything on here. As a white American, I don’t have firsthand experience on this, so please take my opinion with a grain of salt.

My understanding of cultural appopriation: when one culture has taken so much away from another culture, it feels like an insult to suddenly “steal” something else from them. For instance, white settlers coming to the Americas thought of Native Americans of savages (this is obviously completely wrong). It probably (I’m not Native American so I don’t want to speak for them…) feels like salt on an open wound to then have their sacred things adopted by white people. When white people don’t actually respect a culture or the people in it, it must feel very hurtful for them to admire a piece of clothing more than your life or your ancestors’ lives.

Again, this is just my personal opinion and please tell me if anything I said is incorrect or offensive. :heart: (Also, I realize I’m kind of straying from the original topic of names. Sorry about that!)

4 Likes