Name that Babu!
April 16, 2009 1:20 PM   Subscribe

Among East Indians/Hindus, how common is it to name a child after another family member? Trouble finding a name for our soon-to-be born little Babu here...

We'd really like our baby boy (due two days ago!) to have a Hindu name (my wife is South Indian) but haven't found anything that we really like. Most male Hindu names we've come across either don't sound good to a western ear (we are in the U.S.) or are obvious targets for playground teasing.

We do, however, really like her brother's name, not to mention the fact that we are very close to him, and we think it would be a fitting tribute to name our baby after him. But looking through her family and friends, we've never seen an instance where someone was named after another family member and we're wondering if there's some reason for this. We are afraid to ask her family about the appropriateness of this just because we may in the end not choose this name and don't want to break any hearts.

Alternatively, tell me your favorite Hindu boy names.
posted by Slarty Bartfast to Society & Culture (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm from a South Asian culture, and I know that people in my family try not to name kids names that have already been used by other family members.

We're Muslim, but it may be different for Hindus.
posted by reenum at 1:28 PM on April 16, 2009

It might help if you could identify the languages (and tribal/ethnic sub-divisions) at play. After all, would it make any sense to name a Malayali child Bhopinder or Jagdish? (And wouldn't even localizations of Sanskrit show regionalized differences in pronunciation?)
posted by Sangermaine at 1:47 PM on April 16, 2009

Response by poster: Her family is Telegu, most of them also speak Kanada. Just about any Hindu name would be fitting from a cultural standpoint.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:51 PM on April 16, 2009

Response by poster: Or Hindi name I should say.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:52 PM on April 16, 2009

Well, my (south Indian) dad, his dad and uncles all have Rao as their middle name and my dad goes by that as his first name in the U.S., probably because his first name is long. (His parents and siblings all call him Babu.) So maybe having the name you like as baby's middle name is an option.

Also, I should admit I'm not sure whether it's officially part of his first name. Maybe he split the longer first name to come up with Rao as a middle name. I should ask him! I've seen variants of first names and first plus middle names like Muralikrishna, Murali Krishna, Rajkumar, Raj Kumar, Padmalakshmi, Padma Lakshmi, for example, so maybe that's another approach: incorporate the name you like into a longer one to make a slightly longer first name.

I have not observed anyone naming kids after uncles or parents in my extended family, but don't know of a reason for this and neither did my mom when I asked her. I would be interested in finding out more.
posted by PY at 2:07 PM on April 16, 2009

Definitely check. I've heard that in some cultures, it is considered very bad luck for two living people in the same family to share the same name. Normally, one names a child after someone who has died.
posted by amtho at 2:20 PM on April 16, 2009

My parents are Indian (and Hindu), but all their kids were raised in the U.S. My older brother named his first child a name that was sort of similar to my dad's (one letter different). My dad flipped out, saying that kids should have their own names and not be saddled with someone else's. I'm not sure if it was cultural because my dad is generally kind of weird, but that's how I interpreted it.
posted by pizzazz at 3:17 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm not South Indian, but I've always cringed when a boy is named Padma or Aditya or Aditi, because the "a" and "i" at the end makes it sound like it's a girl's name. Please don't name him Lakshmi.

I would go with Ajay, Raju, Nilesh-type names if you live in the U.S. because it's hard to butcher them. Of course, some bright light bulb always will, but some names don't sound as bad as others when butchered.
posted by anniecat at 3:22 PM on April 16, 2009

Also, I realize, like pizzazz, that nobody in my family shares a name or has ever mentioned naming a new member after a much loved relative. I don't know if Hindus in South India versus up north are different in this regard. I've never thought about it.
posted by anniecat at 3:25 PM on April 16, 2009

Sorry, I just thought of something else, and maybe someone can confirm, but don't southies who are Hindu just have a really different naming convention in general from other Hindus? Like the son takes the dad's first name as his last name or something?
posted by anniecat at 3:27 PM on April 16, 2009

i have no idea what the provenance of the name is, but i knew a guy named anil growing up. it seemed like a nice choice because it sounds like "neal," which is easy on the western ear, but still identifiably subcontinental.
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:47 PM on April 16, 2009

In high school I had a male friend who was (I think) half Indian and half Anglo named Kiran, which sounds pretty close to the quasi-trendy Irish name Kieran, so it should work well. I do know of an Indian woman in town named Kiran as well, but I think that in general "Kieran" is a male-associated name, so that should be fine. Guy-Kiran also has brothers named Ajay and Vijay, which are pretty solid names that are easy for Westerners to pronounce.

If you want to honor your family member without worrying about conventions, how about using the same first letter(s)? My (Midwestern Caucasian) boyfriend's second middle name is Elijah because his mother wanted something similar to her own middle name of Elizabeth. So if your brother-in-law is named Ajay, maybe you could call the baby Ajit. Or Arvind -> Arun, Anand -> Anil and so on.
posted by Madamina at 6:09 PM on April 16, 2009

P.S. Be sure to let us know, and congratulations!
posted by Madamina at 6:12 PM on April 16, 2009

Response by poster:
In high school I had a male friend who was (I think) half Indian and half Anglo named Kiran,

Heh, Kiran is the brother's name we'd like to use.

I'm not South Indian, but I've always cringed when a boy is named Padma or Aditya or Aditi, because the "a" and "i" at the end makes it sound like it's a girl's name.

Double heh. That's exactly what my wife says, thus ruling out dozens of my own personal favorites.

Thanks for the help, I appreciate the insight.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 6:44 PM on April 16, 2009

I have the same background as reenum, and I was named after my grandfather. So I don't think it's all that unusual.

That said, among my relatives, they usually have an official name and then a nickname that's completely different. So you could use the relative's name as the kid's nickname if you wish.
posted by divabat at 6:14 AM on April 17, 2009

I'm Tamil (by way of Sri Lanka) and I can't think of anyone in our family with common names. One thing to keep in mind is that in South India its common for men to use their first name as their surname when they get married. (If I was rocking it old school, i'd go by S Ramanan. Actually, maybe I should start doing that. It sounds more hype.)

If you like Kiran, maybe Kanan.

Personally, I think South Indian kids should have crippling long names. They are part of our culture, and they build character.
posted by chunking express at 6:47 AM on April 17, 2009

I have a half-Indian friend named Vikram who has always gone by the nickname Vik. He looks more like his mom's side (Scottish), so some people who don't know him assume his name is short for Victor or Viktor instead.
posted by Asparagirl at 10:45 AM on April 17, 2009

In the north, Kiran is also usually a girl's name. Karan is a boy's name that sounds similar.
posted by xm at 8:53 PM on April 19, 2009

Response by poster: Well, there are enough superstitious people in the family that we decided to steer clear of reusing my brother in law's name. When he came out, he looked more like a Ravi anyway. John is my first name. Ravi John.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:27 PM on April 20, 2009

Ooh, I like -- and what a little sweetie! Congrats, congrats to all of you!
posted by Madamina at 10:17 AM on April 21, 2009

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