Sunday Summary: 6.7.20Friends, I’m struggling with how to say what I need to say.

But it needs to be said, so here goes:

The naming community has a challenge ahead of us.

It’s distressingly common to find black names criticized.

We might couch it in helpful terms. Shouldn’t your child’s name be easier to spell and pronounce? Something that will look good on a resume? An ambitious name, one that could belong to a Supreme Court Justice or a heart surgeon – don’t you want that for your child?

What we’re really saying – I fear – is that white names, especially white middle-class names, signal personal achievement and professional advancement. Names rooted in European languages and cultures are broadly acceptable. But others are, well … other. And suspect.

Because this is a community of big-hearted souls, generous with insight and wisdom, I suspect that we’re all a little reluctant to think of ourselves as racist.

But that doesn’t mean we’re not.

Good intentions don’t exempt us from the work of making this world more just.

So here’s my challenge – one I’m giving myself, and one I hope you’ll support: let’s lift up non-Western names. Let’s recognize that, for many families, names drawn from European languages are wholly inadequate. Let’s turn down the pressure to find that “easier” name. Let’s listen to parents talk about what they value, what their family’s traditions dictate, and the names that speak to their personal experiences.

If that means more girls named Aaliyah, and fewer called Olivia, then that’s perfectly fine. It takes nothing away from me to recognize the dignity of a fellow human being. I loved this perspective from an Australian advocate for migrant families: A person’s name is a part of his or her cultural identity … If you believe and treat a person as an equal fellow human being, then the rest will follow.

It may not be easy, but it’s necessary.

On being Serina instead of Gurpreet, or the pressure to choose Western names. If we can say Saoirse and Tchaikovsky, we can figure out – and appreciate – Punjabi names, too. Or Swahili, Mandarin, Bengali, Amharic. Bring ’em on.

Sojourn Hyssop Arise what a gorgeous, richly meaningful name! Kate recently shared a birth announcement and the story behind this choice.

Weird Al is everywhere lately. Nancy highlighted some quotes about growing up Alfred.

How good is this update about baby Matilda’s middle name from Duana? And I’m in love with Tillie Ann as a nickname.

If you need a real distraction, may I suggest Wikipedia’s list of pen names? I was reminded that George Orwell’s real name was Eric Arthur Blair the other day … and I found myself wondering what other influential author names I’d forgotten.

As always, thank you for being a part of this community. Wishing you peace in the week ahead!

Boy Names: 6.7.20 Girl Names: 6.7.20









Image by vargazs from Pixabay

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I wanted to share this story somewhere and thought it fit well with this post. Last year while doing my elementary education internship I witnessed racism based upon a name. The new aide was named Shaniqua and the all white staff were laughing and saying there is no way she will last very long and said she should change her name. It got very nasty and I had to keep my mouth shut because of my position. Please make a post about names like shaniqua to educate the history and meaning behind these names. I am imagining a couple wanting to celebrate a grandma or grandpa with these names, but fear the judgement.

  2. Thank you for saying this, Abby. The tradition of baby name writing and commentary is so rooted in white European culture, it’s all too easy to keep perpetrating it without thinking. We certainly have a big challenge ahead.

  3. Thank you for this. I love reading naming blogs, but in my own search for a name struggled because only a sliver of posts could apply to us, because we needed a name that worked for family that only speaks Spanish. Anyways, appreciate the self-reflection.

  4. Wonderful post and I wholeheartedly agree! Thank you for posting this. It was a much-needed reminder that we need to look at all aspects of our lives in order to shine light on and flush out any aspects of racism. That’s what we must do in order to be sure we are not only changing our own lives/habits/thoughts/actions to protect everyone in our communities, but that we also aren’t accidentally passing on racists subtleties to our children.

    Also looking forward to some more non-Western name features!

  5. Oh! That reminds me of a fictional name discussion on the TV series “Black-ish”, in which parents had 4 kids, named Zoe, Jack, Diane and Andre Junior, and were accused of using only “white names”, but dad wanted the name DeVonte for their fifth kid, and they went with it even though it didn’t match the other names’ style, because they wanted to finally use a “black name”.

  6. Love this! Excited to see more diverse names featured on the sight perhaps!!