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?”