03 July 2007

the name game (very long)

In junior high, I started keeping a notebook full of names. They were names I liked, with middle names and their meanings. There were pages and pages full of names in there just waiting for the day when I would name a child. That red notebook is gone now. And, along with it, the names I'd chosen and wedding ideas (there were some great bridal keds in there...). But, I've kept it going mentally for years.

I know what I'd like to name both of my d2b. I've got the names all picked out. I'm just not going to tell you what the names are until I know if they'll be kept.

Because, since they will be older, my d2b will already have names they know. A name is part of your sense of self. I've got a couple of choices. I could keep the given name (or nickname) and add a middle name. I could keep the given name (or nickname) as a middle name and add a first name. I could give new first and middle names.

Some of what I do will depend on the child and her history, and some will depend on the Russian name itself. We all connect names with people we know. Remember that girl in college who was after your boyfriend? Would you really name your daughter her name? Having lived here, I've run into a few people whose names I wouldn't want d2b to share. There are a couple of people (with the same name) here who drive me crazy. (Actually, I suspect they may be a little crazy.) And, there are some names that may simply be difficult for an American child to have. I think I want d2b to have a name that lets her/them be invisible if she/they want to be and not always be stamped (notarized and apostilled) "adopted from Russia". I taught a triplet. While the rest of the class thought it was very cool, it was the *last* thing she wanted as an identifier. I think it's cool that d2b was born in Russia, but I want to be sensitive to the fact that she may not always want that fact broadcast.

Right now I'm thinking that an English name that has a Russian nickname would be a good choice. (ie: her given name is Larissa, she's called Lasha, I name her Laura but keep calling her Lasha--but that's not one of the two I really have in mind. ;> ) Or, any English name that ends with -a will help the transition between Russian and English. (That's the other name I have in mind.)

Naming adopted children is a hot-button issue amongst ap/pap's! Some people feel that a name is all their child brings from their life prior to adoption and it should be kept.

Some people find that the child was not named by his/her parents. If their child was named without a great deal of thought, perhaps by a hospital worker, they may want to give their child a name full of love and thought and significance. I've heard stories about children being named alphabetically or all being named after the person doing the naming.

Some people think that adoption is time for a fresh start with a fresh name--especially if there is a history of abuse or neglect. Caretakers often explain to children that along with a new Mama there is a new language and a new name. I think giving a child a family name falls into this camp.

Some people think that it is important to keep a cultural tie even if the name is changed (That's the only side of the argument I, personally, can't make. I think you either keep the name or you don't. Whether you choose a different Russian name or a different American name or any other name it will still be a different name to the child. I think choosing a different Russian name may be even more confusing to a child than choosing a name that is not Russian. After all, they may already know a Kolya and be looking for him whenever you call out that name. But, I only am responsible for naming my child/ren. I never okayed Apple for Gwyneth. You can name your child whatever and why-ever you like. ;> It's fine with me--and it wouldn't matter if it wasn't.)

Some people have other ideas about naming that they're going to leave in my comments because I haven't thought of or heard them yet.

My child/ren may be old enough to weigh in on this matter. If so, I will put great store in their preferences. For now, I'm hoping for either:

1. one of my favourite Russian names, or
2. a Russian name/nickname close to one of my favourite English names, or
3. one of my least favourite Russian names (really--no qualms then about changing it)

Any of those options will make the name game so much easier to play!

For those of you who want to play along at home, here are some common names for Russian girls with their meaning and nicknames. I didn't include the -eshka, -itchka, -ooshka, -oola, etc. "sweet names" that inevitably and endearingly follow. (As far as teachers at school go, we have three Marinas, two Mashas, three Irinas, two Tatyana/Tanyas, Nastia, Galina, Natasha, Nadya, Oksana, Elena, Olga, Inna and Aisha. Zhenya, Sveta, Ira, Ludmilla, Larissa and Valentina--among others--are friends outside of school. Just fyi...straw poll by Katya.)

ALEKSANDRA: Feminine form of Russian Aleksandr, meaning "defender of mankind." (SASHA, SHURA)

ALISA: Russian form of English Alice, meaning "noble sort." (ALYSA)

ALYONA: Variant of Russian Yelena, meaning "torch" or "moon" or more likely "to elope." (YELENA)

ANASTASIYA: Russian and Ukrainian form of Latin Anastasia, meaning "resurrection." (NASTIA)

ANYA: Russian form of Latin Anna, meaning "favor; grace."

DARYA: Russian form of Roman Daria, meaning "possesses a lot; wealthy." (DASHA)

EKATERINA: Russian form of Greek Katherine, meaning "pure." (KATYA, YEKATERINA)

ELIZAVETA: Variant of Russian Yelizaveta, meaning "God is my oath." (YELIZAVETA, LIZA, LIZAVETA)

EVGENIYA: Variant of Russian Yevgeniya, meaning "well born." (YEVGENIYA, ZHENYA)

GALINA: Russian feminine form of English Galen, meaning "calm, tranquil." (GALA)

INNA: Russian unisex name meaning "strong water." The name was originally a male name, but became somewhat popular as a religious girl's name due the misidentification of the sex of the Russian martyr Inna, a male student of the Apostle Andrei.

IRINA: Russian form of Greek Eirene, meaning "peace." variant is (ARINA, ARISHA, IRA)

IVANNA: Feminine form of Russian Ivann, meaning "God is gracious."

KIRA: Russian form of English Kyra, meaning "like the sun."

KLAVA: Pet form of Russian Klavdiya, meaning "lame." (*old-fashioned name, but I just had a friend who got a referral of a little girl with this name.)

KSENIYA: Russian form of Greek Xenia, meaning "hospitable." (AKSINYA)

LARISSA: Russian name derived from a city in Ancient Greece, probably meaning "fortified town." (LARA, LASHA)

LUDMILA: "People's favor." Czech and Russian name composed of the Slavic elements lud "people, tribe" and mil "favor, grace." (LUDA)

LYUBOV: Russian name derived from the Slavic word lub, meaning "love." (LYUBA)

MARINA: meaning "of the sea" (MASHA, MARISHA)

MARYANA: meaning "beloved." (MASHA, MARYA, MARIYA)

NADEZHDA: Russian name meaning "hope." (NADYA, NADA)

NATALIYA: Ukrainian and Russian form of Natalia, meaning "birthday," or in Church Latin "Christmas day." (NATASHA, TALYA, TASHA)

OKSANA: Russian and Ukrainian form of Greek Xenia, meaning "hospitable, esp. to foreigners/strangers."

OLGA: Feminine form of Russian Oleg, meaning "prosperous, successful." (OLYA)

SOFIYA: Russian and Ukrainian form of Greek Sophia, meaning "wisdom." (SOFYA, SONIA)

SVETLANA: Russian name derived from the Slavic element svet, meaning "light." (SVETA, LANA)

TAMARA: Russian form of Hebrew Tamar, meaning "palm tree."

TATYANA: Russian form of Latin Tatiana, which is probably related to Latin tata, meaning "father." (TANYA)

VARVARA: Russian form of Barbara, meaning "foreign; strange." (VARYA)

VERA: Russian name, meaning "faith; truth."

VIKTORIYA: Russian and Ukrainian form of Roman Victoria, meaning "to conquer; victory."

YULIA: Variant of Russian Yuliya, possibly meaning "youth." (YULIYA, YULIANA)

ZHANNA: Russian form of French Jeanne, meaning "God is gracious."

ZINAIDA: Russian form of Greek Zenais, possibly meaning "of Zeus." (ZINA, ZINOVIYA)

ZOYA: Russian form of Greek Zoe, meaning "life."


Jenni said...

Well thought out post Kate! The naming of an adopted child can be more difficult than one might think. So much of it depends on when you meet the child too - I never imagined I would have a daughter named Victoria (Vika), yet there she is!

In the end, you will know what is best and will select perfect names for your d2b.

Rachael said...

We've talked about this before -- so you knew I'd have to put in my 2 cents about this, didn't ya?

I'm like you, in that I loved compiling names lists as a teenager (okay, maybe as an adult too, just a little :)).

But, like you, I didn't feel entirely right about changing an older child's name (tweaking it though is perfectly fine -- esp. as the cyrillic to english alphabet translation gives you a little more liberty with this).

Course, it's easy for me to say, since my referral had my fave Russian name. You have no idea though the amount of sleep I lost though, before the referral, over imagining all the scenarios should I be matched with a child whose name I just didn't like.

Also, funny that we kept the (tweaked) version of the full Russian first name and kept the nickname, in favor of the American version of the name (one of my all time faves), so as to keep the familiar for her, and now she wants to be called the American version anyway. Go figure.

Sorry, that was more than 2 cents. Almost a dollar. Oh, and everytime I hear Jenni talk about her little Vika, I like that name even more.

JennStar said...

Great post. My DH & I are pursuing a daughter also, but younger, so it's not as much of an issue for us (for her to feel connected to her name, as an older child might). I'm right there with ya on you post. I've searched out Russian names in hopes of finding one that will just "fit" and I've had to stop the search and find out who she is when we get a referal. No sense worrying about it yet. I am on the side of the fence that wants to giver her a completely different name, mainly because both of our boys have family names, and I'd like to give her one, too- since she will be apart of our family. But again, I'm leaving that one up to who she is and what feels right when we get her.

A Room to Grow said...

We have the same criteria as you do about changing names. I really hope the Russian names work out!

Since we are adopting two at once, there is also the added complexity of changing both or neither name. I wouldn't change one, and not the other.

Debi said...

I love to read all the thought that you have invested in naming...it means a lot...a name...

We did change our Russian Princes' name from Andrey to Griffin but more often then not he is called Andryusha (an-drew-sha) which is what he was called by all his caretakers..it is him and it is his...others call him Griffin and Griff but dh and ds and I call him Andryusha all the time.

Anonymous said...

I love the whole Russian name post you've done here ;o)

When we went to Russia to adopt our little girl, we were given three spellings of her name, all on official documents. Not the best records. We never saw a birth certificate. (long story).

They pronounced her name "u-ZJEEN-ya", with the phonetic spelling. The g in Eugenia is pronounced like the "z" in the word "Pleasure".
In a nutshell, Her name was spelled Yeugenia, Eugenia, and Evgenie. Um, why so much confusion, I'm not sure. In her new legal name for court we went with the British spelling of Eugenia as one of her two middle names.

At the baby home she went by Zhenya as her nickname. Darling.

I love hearing all about the Russian names. -Alison Pope @ alisondawnp@yahoo.com

Holly said...

Wow Kate! I was just pondering Russian girl names (as evidenced in my latest post to our yahoogroup) and here you've posted exactly what I was thinking!

I'll throw one out there...my daughter has a birthname that I just didn't care for. I knew someone growing up with that name and we were bitter enemies. Not that I would have ever named my child that, but regardless...her foster mom called her "baby" anyway and she didn't recognize her birthname at all. I had no qualms in changing it. However, I did keep the nickname for her birthname as the first of two middle names. Grace Mia and I added McKinley after Mia because any child of mine will have a little touch of Alaska added to their name :-)

So now I'm pondering names again as I ready myself to start this crazy process all over again. I'm still unsure if I will go to Guatemala or Russia, though with the Hague issue, it will likely be Russia.

My favorite name is Emma and my daughter will have that name with either her birth name as a middle name, or another Russian name as her middle name (if her birthname is something she might be teased about). I like the names Katya and Anya and Ekaterina very much. Denali will be her second middle name. Have I confused you yet? Emma Anya Denali is probably my favorite right now, with Katya instead of Anya a close second.

If I end up going back to Guatemala, I hope that the child I adopt has the same birthname as Grace so that the two girls can have the same middle name...Mia. Emma Mia Denali.

Now, if I adopt a boy...who knows! Guess I should research boy names too. I do like Kenai as part of his middle name. Gotta have that touch of Alaska in there :-)

Admittedly, I first thought of the song when I read "the name game". As in Kate, Kate bo bate, banana fana fo fate, fee fi mo mate, Kate!

votemom said...

the biggest consideration for us was finding out if our girls' birth mom's had chosen their names for them.

in may on our first visit, the lawyer checked the records and verified that their names had both been taken off the registry list at the hospital.

that made our decision a little easier to change their names.

because they are not infants, we didn't want to drastically change the sound of their names - they have enuf to adjust to.

we opted to go with more americanized versions of their russian nicknames.

but if their birth moms had named them, we would have kept those names. it would have been the only thing they would have had from her.

it's a really personal decision. but for us, that was our decision.

Andrea said...

I think my favourite has to be Elizaveta ... it's pretty but a little exotic at the same time. My own favourite baby names aren't Russian, but I really think some of the Russian names are lovely. And you're right, names in general ARE important- whatever the reasoning behind the names chosen and/or kept, it gives the name meaning and it's part of the child's identity. I think the only really bad way to go about picking a name is to give it no thought at all :)

Annie said...

Of course you want comments on your OLD POST, don't you???

I love nearly every Russian name. Though I wonder how you could have bad connotations with any particular Russian name, since like Engliand in Elizabethan times, there are fewer names, used so much more frequently.

Anyway, the one Russian girls name I don't like is Lyubov - Lyuba, simply because of the way it rolls off the tongue. It is exasperating that it has the best meaning of all! Still, I think that if I fell in love with a little girl named Lyuba, I'd love LYUBA! The name would become lovely for me. My son's name, Evgenii, was not a favorite, certainly, but I did think that the nickname Zhen was really cool. But Zhen insists on the more typical Russian version, Zhenya, and as a robust and very boyish little guy, it certainly works for him! Plus, I now LOVE the names Evgenii and Zhenya because they now have the PERFECT association for me.

I also loved compiling "baby names" and here is what is strange - though I am past having more of my own, and the adopted ones come with names.....I still find myself doing this. (Thank heaven I WAS able to give up designing wedding dresses!)

Kids often want to change names. My daughter Lydia went through a year when she wanted to be called - no, not "Tiffany" or "Raquel" or something more contemporary, but "Agnes". Yes. "Agnes." Beats me.

My favorite adoption name change story was the little neighbor boy adopted from Mexico. His name was Roberto and his parents told him that he could choose a new name and on such and such a day he could announce his new name with some fanfare. The day came. He announced his choice: Juan!

I was so delighted that my daughter's name was Anastasia. I LOVE the Betsy Tacy books and here was my chance! I'd call my daughter "Tacy". No deal. She likes Nastya. No matter that her brothers have all delighted in the obvious American "variant". She IS Nastya. (BTW - she is absolutely convinced that Anastasia is the nickname.)

Tami said...

Somehow I managed to miss this post the first time around! I LOVE names...have loved naming things since my days in Jr. High. When Shad and I started dating in high school I quickly named all of our children (none of which stuck, thank goodness! :)
Since all of our children were younger (except Maddie) we decided to go with all new names...American first names, Russian/Ukrainian middles. What's funny is that unbeknownst to me my name ended up being Russian as well! :)
As you know our oldest is Anya...Maddie's real middle name is Sofiya...and of course my name is Tamara. I love that I got to share in my children's heritage without even knowing it! :)