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Thursday, March 01, 2007
What's in a name
Wow look at me throwing out 2 posts in 2 days over here. I have some stuff on my mind, can you tell?

You are ready to adopt. You've done your research, you've selected a social worker, and an agency, sent in your paperwork after thinking long and hard about what age of child you would like. Your referral arrives and you consult every known international adoption specialist out there to determine if he is healthy or not. But there is a hang up... his name. He comes with some weird name like Oleg. Who the hell names their kid Oleg? Oh yeah, me.

To some a child's name is like planning your dream wedding. At age 14 most girls have the details of their entire lives planned out. I'm going to get married in St. Patrick's Cathedral, take a carriage ride through Central Park, and have my reception at the Rainbow Room. I'll have 2.5 children and live in a vintage home in old town San Antonio. I'll only shop out of the Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn catalogs. My son will be named William and my daughter Feather. If you did that we have nothing more to say to each other. I got married at St. Mark Lutheran Church in Lacey, WA, had the reception in the parish hall with no booze and my chariot? My 92' Geo Storm to a hotel in Seattle. I live in a rambler in a suburb of Tacoma and I shop at Target and my son is named Oleg.

To leave our church via the back door you walk through the preschool. There are little coat hooks with apples above each hook. The names of the children are written on the hooks to identify who's hook is who's. If you glance at the names there are no fewer than 3 Madisons, 2 Olivias, 4 Jacobs, and maybe a Kelston, or Jaxin thrown in there. Parents either seem to go with the uber popular or the totally off the wall these days.

We agonize over our child's name, but do we think of the long run. "Tell me about when you were a kid Grandma Brittney." Not really. A name may be cute on a baby or toddler, but as a full grown adult? I have friend with normal run of the mill names. Heather, Danielle, Kathleen, Jessica. Then there are the ones where the clerk at the supermarket looks at their debit card and says "Have a good day Ing... Have a nice day!" Or there is my sis in law. Same name as me, but spelled so it looks like Ly-ee-see. No disrespect to my in-laws or you Lee. Love your name actually. But the poor woman married a Japanese man and now the clerk at the supermarket totally butchers her name. At least it provides some comedic relief for the rest of us.

When it came time to give our son a Russian name we quickly ruled out some. Igor, Evgeniy, Boris, Vadislav... We didn't think about others. Ilya, Artyom, Grigoriy, Roman. All good names, but not ones we would pick. And Gaye... Roman so looks like a Roman! Love his name. Some of the names just seemed a little off the wall. Oleg for example. Again, who names their kid Oh-leg.

So we get this email and the child is named Oleg. When I called CS with the news that we had a referral my first words were, "What do you think of the name Oh-leg?" (notice how I write that out phonetically) "Ole the goalie!" was his reply. Ole the goalie is actually from South Africa and his name is German (Olaf Kolzig.) Anyway, many jokes were made about the name Oleg. Eventually it started to grow on us. Before we met the boy we were sitting at one of the various medical clinics and I asked our translator, Lena, what the diminutive for Oh-leg was. She replied, "Ah-lyeg? Well they are kind of long. Ah-lyeh-zhek or Ah-lyeh-zhka." I couldn't get past how she pronounced our child's name. "Ah-lyeg." not Oh-leg. This totally changed our perception of his name. It now sounded interesting. Thus he ended up Oleg Roy (pronounced Ah-leg Roy) Occasionally it will come out Ah-lyeg or Ah-lyeh-zhka.

The point I am trying to get at is selecting a name for your child is important. Don't rule out the name they come with just because it isn't on your "list." Meet your child. Get to know them a little bit. Oleg looks like an Oleg. He doesn't look like a David or a Peter.
20 Comments:
Blogger Jenni said...
Boy, I could write a whole post about this one! In fact, maybe I will.

Neither one of my kids' names was chosen by me, despite the fact that I've been "naming" my kids since I was 5! But, you're right. Sometimes, the Russian name just seems to fit better than any name you've chosen. Plus, there is no real worry that our kids will go through the common-name issues I had while growing up, when there were 5 girls named Jennifer in my class! I think Vika, Eamon and Oleg will always be unique names.

Blogger Starfish said...
We kept Seamonkey's birth name as well, and it is not your traditional name. For us the decision was made when they handed over this little child that had NOTHING, not one. single. thing. Not even the shirt on his back to call his own. It was at that emotional moment that we knew we wanted to keep the one thing he was given, and not change it. We had Joseph or Matthew picked out but they just wouldn't do.

Blogger Rachael said...
I posted on the name subject a few days ago. Love your take on it. This is actually a great topic for your "mommy wars" over at that other site. Isn't it funny how weird and opinionated people can get about names? I have to confess, I went out and bought a new baby name book after we got our referral (even though I already had a bunch of old ones from before) and in the end we decided to call her Katya (her actual Russian nickname) after all, because it's just who she is and it fits her. (Even though my Mom just cannot pronounce it correctly).
Oh, and you just wait, it's probably just a matter of time before "Oleg" turns up on some celebrity kid and becomes the next hottest thing.

I love the story of your son's name.
I was hoping that Zeeb's Vietnamese name would be something we could Americanize or even just leave as-is. But Vietnamese is a tonal language so if you say it wrong, it means something totally different. And if you say his VN name wrong (using a questioning tone) it means "do you want to pee?" and I thought that'd be a rather horrid thing to strap the kid with for life. So his VN name is still there, in the middle, but he's got a (semi-common) American name up front. Sorry kid. :-}

Blogger Maggie said...
Good post. When I hosted for the summer in '05 my fellow host parents and I chuckled over some of the names. We could barely pronounce some. But, over the course of the summer, I grew to love all of their names -- it's who they were. I always loved Peanut's real name (Vladimir) but it took a long while for his diminutive name "Vova" to grow on me.

Blogger Melissa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Melissa said...
Great post!! :) You know what? N has agreed to wait till we meet our little guy to make a decision on his name. I think it will make a difference after we meet him...it will be different having a name for a little person, rather than a pretty old picture. (by the way, I deleted the above comment...I posted before editing & had a typo)

Blogger Tricia said...
We are hoping to keep the names of our girls. If for some reason the names are hard to pronounce, or don't translate well, we will keep them as middle names & choose new first names with Russian flavor. Since we are adopting two at once, I also want to be consistent (change both or neither).

I agree with Starfish. I think it's nice to keep their original names - especially if they are older. Or for later in case they want to go by their birth name. I don't know how I would feel if the name was given to them somewhere during orphanage life though...

Interestingly enough, I have heard from several different sources that older children often want a new 'American name' to go with their new life. I like the idea of keeping the Russian name (obviously) but can understand why an older child would want to move it to the middle name. If the child is given up at birth, most likely the name they have was given to them by the hospital or baby home staff, not the mother. But it is still a connection to their heritage.

Blogger Christen & Frank said...
ok I had a long comment posted and then it disappeared... so this will have to do because I'm too lazy to re-type all of it.

first, love this post! will have to do a spin off on our site! we have a "list" that we have fought long and hard over. lots of vitos going both ways. i feel a little guilty now, having read your nice post and comments. keeping the russian name does seem like a nice tribute, maybe we keep it as a middle name.... guess we'll wait and see how we feel at the time.

Blogger AEmom said...
I changed my son's name, keeping his Russian name as his middle name, and letting him choose which name he wanted to be called (he was almost 10 when he came home). After having his name slaughtered over and over, he decided that he wanted to be called Aidan (his first name instead). The people that knew him in Russia (people we keep in contact with) still refer to him as Sergey, as does his Russian family (that we keep in contact with).

Anonymous annmarie said...
Thanks for this post! I'll keep it in mind when confronted with the issue. Right now, I'm just a blur...

Blogger Gaye & Andrew said...
LOL!! I laughed when I read your comment directly to me about Roman's name :) I americanized it and changed the pronounciation from "Ro-maan" to "Ro-man"...does that even make sense? :) gaye

Blogger Ani said...
What a great story - he not only has a great nickname, but a good "real" name too!
We kept our son's middle name and added a family name as his first - we thought it a good way to honor both his birth and forever families.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Thanks for including me in your blog...Gotta love the comment, how do you pronounce your name?

Take care,
IAL

Blogger Nancy said...
I have to laugh because I just assumed you named him Oleg after family. That's probably because I grew up with a Grandpa Holger, Aunt Dagmar, tons Inge's and Ole's and a host of other names that most find odd. I grew up in a Danish/Lutheran community so Oleg seems normal to me.

Blogger Lauri said...
I like Livi's russian name and we considered keeping it but she did not go by that name but a nickname version that in English sounded like " Nasty"..... her name is one that I have had my heart set on since I was a teen... it is popular but we think it suits her well.

good post

Blogger aanix said...
My son was named when I got him, and I love his name. His name is Seva (Seh-vah). I kept it of course, but I don't think it ever ocurred to me to change it. Maybe because I saw it when I saw his picture and decided to adopt and it was just always him, ya know? Once on a bulletin board this discussuin came up and I was really in the camp of keeping original names because it was all they had, now I waver. Maybe it really is not as big a deal as I thought. Officially Seva is his middle name but that is just because it sounded better and looked better that way. Seva is a diminutive form I have been told. Like naming your kid Bob instead of Robert. Short for either Sevastian or Vsevalodt. We get compliments on his name all the time.

Blogger Ann said...
I never realized all that. I thought just like others that it was a family name. And well I've been pronouncing it wrong too. Oh well, all straight now!!

Anonymous adoptedthree said...
I love the Russian names-I just can't help it and I love untraditional names too- ones that make you say WOW now that is different but cool in a way!

So we had a list of acceptable and just too far off. If our kids names fell into the acceptable then we would keep it if it felt right and they would all get an americanized middle name.

So as history goes
We have a Vitaly Allen; Nikolai (was named Kostantine (Kostya) but we changed this one)Alexander; and Oksana Elizabeth!

If the name fits keep it!

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