The Great Name Debate

What in the world should we name our children? Or should we name them at all? That is the great name debate in our household.

When we received our referral information in August, we received not only pictures, but names and medical information on the children. They had both African names, and English names: Rose and Emmanuel. Of course, we’re a bit confused. Are they called by their African names (which we don’t know how to pronounce) or by their English names? Have they just begun to be called by their English names, or are the names a sort of pseudonym for us to use when we communicate about them with our agency?

So, we’ve faced a quandary. What should we call them? What will we call them?

We could keep “Rose” and “Emmanuel” as their names. They are perfectly fine names, and they may be already answering to those names even as we speak. They are easy to spell and pronounce, and will fit in with American culture.

We could keep their African names. Although we don’t know how to pronounce them — or even what language they are in, it’s something we could quickly catch on to. If I have indeed figured out how to pronounce Rose’s African name, I actually think it’s kind of cute. And with all of the change that the children are about to go through, keeping their name the same might be one less change. But still, their names will always be difficult to pronounce to Americans, and they won’t know anyone else with similar names.

We could reuse the names that we had intended to use for the twins, who indeed never existed, so the names have never been used. In fact, we were seriously considering this option before we lost the three- and six-year-olds who were originally referred to us. But in all honesty, to attempt to name a third pair of siblings “Palmer” and “Emelia” has lost its appeal, at least for now.

We could rename them entirely. After all, they will be our children, and we have that right. To be honest, I would really love to name our children ourselves. I’ve always loved choosing names, but other than naming our dogs, Buddy and Holly, I’ve not had the chance to choose many names. Oh sure, I’ve made suggestions for names, like when I suggested that my chemistry-teacher friend name her daughter Ethyl Methyl Polly Ester. Somehow, she didn’t go for it. 😉

Why all the name debate? If the children were younger, it wouldn’t be such a quandary. But three and four year olds are old enough to know their names. Orphans have so little to call their own. Quite possibly, the only thing they will come to us with is the clothes on their backs, and their names. To thoughtlessly take away what little they have doesn’t seem right.

So we have decided  . . . not to decide, at least for now. We probably won’t decide until we get to the Democratic Republic of Congo and find out a little bit more about their names and their significance. We’ll probably tuck a naming book into our luggage as we travel. For now, we’ll probably still refer to them as “Rose” and “Emmanuel,” since that seems a bit more personal than “the boy” and “the girl,” even though I really don’t necessarily want those names to “stick.”

So at least the foreseeable future, the great name debate will continue. What in the world should we name our children? Or should we name them at all? Only time will tell.

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5 thoughts on “The Great Name Debate

  1. My sister adopted a chinese boy that was almost 3. As a family they chose his first 2 names and kept his chinese name as his 3rd name. Connor, Noah Xing. That way he had all 3. Not a problem for him evidently. They are adopting a little girl soon. Conner picked her name and her original name will again be her birth name. Olivia Kate (something) Just thought you might like to know what someone else did!

  2. It is too early to be typing. Can you make sense of it all Her original name will be her 3rd name. (Rats! School may be a challenge today!) lol

  3. My oldest daughter was 8 when she came from Russia. Originally we were not planning on making any changes for the reasons you listed. After talking with several families that had older children they all agreed the kids preferred names that did not have them stand out from their peer group. We gave her the name Amber and incorporated Marie from part of her Russian name Maria. She went by Masha though so we continued to call her Masha as a nick name until at 6 months she asked “when I get be called Amber?”. We told her never if she didn’t want to or whenenver SHE chose to. She responded “I want be called Amber now”. After that she wouldn’t respond to anything else. For her Russia held a lot of horrible memories and it was an opportunity to completely start new including embracing a new name for herself. We just adopted Lauren this year who is 6 and from China. We gave her the name Lauren Mei and included part of her Chinese name which was Guang Mei. The Mei part is the only part that is personal. Guang was a name given to all the kids entering the Shanghai orphanage around the same year. Lauren has already quickly embraced her name as she is embracing her new life and family.

  4. I can understand why you are leaning away from naming another set of siblings the names you chose for the twins you originally planned to adopt. We chose a name for a girl for our first pregnancy, one that we both loved, and when I miscarried that baby, which I really felt was a girl, I couldn’t imagine ever using “her” name for another baby. For the next 5 years I considered various other girl names, and since Connor was a boy, we didn’t have to settle on one when he was born. After two more miscarriages we finally had our girl and decided to give her the name we had originally chosen together: Janelle. Chris loved this name like no other, and her middle name, Faith, is one we had never considered before. What really amazes me is her nickname, Nellie. That is a name I NEVER would have chosen, but it just organically grew out of her name, and she actually prefers it. Now it just so perfectly suits her, and it’s special and unique to her. There are lots of Nellies in my family tree, but there certainly aren’t any others in her classroom.

    I think when you meet your children you will know what their names should be, whether they are names you’ve chosen and already given them in your hearts, or whether it is how they are introduced to you. I really believe that in the end, the decision will be quite natural and obvious. But it is fun to think about, isn’t it?

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