Should a New York Couple Follow the Husband’s Greek Tradition?

15 Apr

The other day a friend of mine posted an article on Facebook about how his friend, a New Yorker of Greek descent, has taken to the internet because his wife doesn’t doesn’t want their unborn baby to be named Spyridon. Here’s how the headline read for the Daily Mail article:

Couple launches online campaign to decide if their unborn baby should be called Michael or Spyridon – after failing to reach an agreement despite months of arguments

A couple basic facts:

  • The husband’s name is Nicholas. A common name. An easy to pronounce name.
  • The name Spyridon is Nicholas’ father’s name. In Greek culture, it’s common to name your first child after the husband’s side of the family. Though a familiar Greek name, Spyridon is not common even in the diverse city of New York … well, unless you go by its diminutive, Spyro. Nor is it obvious to nonGreeks how it should be pronounced.
  • The wife’s name is Kseniya, a name I’ve never heard of until reading this article. A name I’m not quite sure how to pronounce. Kseniya thinks the name Spyridon is too “archaic.” If it’s a boy, she wants to name it after her own father, Michael.

Some have posited that the husband has “the right” to name “his” son after his father. Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Should the New York couple follow Greek tradition?
  • Would it make a difference if they lived in Greece?
  • Why should the couple follow the husband’s tradition over the wife’s desires?
  • Does it matter that the child in question is a son*? Should a father’s opinion matter more for the name of a son?
  • What makes the child “his” son and not “their” son?
  • If the child is a daughter, would this be as big of an issue? Would you still say the child should be named after the father’s side of the family or if it’s a daughter would you side more with the mother?
  • Does Kseniya perhaps know better than her husband the frustration of growing up with a a difficult-to-pronounce first name?

*Here’s the kicker: they don’t even know yet if the baby is a boy or girl!

So yeahhhh this type of marital spat is kind of how I ended up with my name. In Greek culture it’s tradition to name the first child after the father’s parents so my father just assumed I would be named after his mother. My mother (a Midwesterner who is not Greek) didn’t want me to have two “weird” names. The result? The night I was born my father ended up storming out of the hospital when the nurse came around to ask for my name and my mother refused to name me after my father’s mother. While he was out in the midst of a New York City snowstorm, my mother named me. For the record, my mother compromised by naming me after my dad’s stepfather instead of his mother and gave me his mother’s name for my middle name.

As Shakespeare would say, “What’s in a name?”

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8 Responses to “Should a New York Couple Follow the Husband’s Greek Tradition?”

  1. smr21 April 15, 2015 at 5:15 pm #

    That’s a tough one. If they were believers I would suggest their saying, “Lord, we’re going to flip a coin (modern equivalent to drawing lots in the Bible, cf. Acts 1:24-26) and please choose whether the father or mother names the child.” Incidentally, Stephanie was my mother’s name (she a Jewish Christian in Vienna), and was named after her father, and I named after her.

    • Stephanie Nikolopoulos April 15, 2015 at 6:00 pm #

      Perhaps the Internet poll is their version of casting lots. Thanks for sharing the story of how you got your name! It sounds like it has a lot of history behind it.

  2. Linda April 15, 2015 at 6:05 pm #

    Speaking of wm shakespeare –when I read this I thought this is really too much as in much ado about nothing! Traditions are fine within reason – the American and non- Greek half of me says name him Zorba and be done with it — The Greek half tells me whatever they decide — spyro or mike — there is a big cultural divide here that doesn’t bode well for this couple

    • Stephanie Nikolopoulos April 15, 2015 at 6:08 pm #

      I agree. It concerns me that they can’t compromise and that they’ve taken their marital spat to the Internet. But maybe neither of them are angry about this and this is all in good fun.

  3. aeoliankid April 15, 2015 at 7:17 pm #

    Oh, the stories I could tell !!! : )   …YOWZA !  –  George Koumantzelis  /  Aeolian Music Works  /   

  4. Liz April 15, 2015 at 10:51 pm #

    When I was pregnant with my first son, I did leave the naming to my husband. I felt that if he wanted a junior, he should have that option. He immediately said he didn’t want a junior, and we chose our son’s name together. We named him after both of our fathers. A beautiful tribute to both families I think, as he was the first grandchild. I think honestly the whole continuing the family line is a very real thing for men, and what can be a greater honor for a man than naming his first son after his father. My daughter’s name is my mother’s middle name, and I think for me it was very much the same. I wanted to honor my mother, and she was the first granddaughter as well. But Madeleine is a “known” name, even if the spelling is different.

    • Stephanie Nikolopoulos April 15, 2015 at 10:58 pm #

      Naming the child after both fathers sounds like a beautiful way to honor both families!

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