Should you give your kids names that are 'easy' to pronounce? | The Tylt

Should you give your kids names that are 'easy' to pronounce?

A recent Dear Abby column advised parents against giving their children "foreign" names, meaning ones that are hard for the average (translation: white) person to pronounce or spell. Critics immediately responded saying the advice is an example of whitewashing and "cultural imperialism." Even so, many people agree with Abby, saying that difficult-to-pronounce names make early life harder for kids. What do you think?  

FINAL RESULTS
Culture
Should you give your kids names that are 'easy' to pronounce?
A festive crown for the winner
#MakeItEasyOnTheKid
#NoLimitsOnNames
Dataviz
Real-time Voting
Should you give your kids names that are 'easy' to pronounce?
#MakeItEasyOnTheKid
#NoLimitsOnNames
#MakeItEasyOnTheKid

Dear Abby columnist, Jeanne Phillips, responded to one reader's request for advice regarding his future child's name. When responding to the question of a name of Indian origins or a more westernized name, Phillips had this to say: 

Popular names in one country can cause problems for a child living in another one. Not only can foreign names be difficult to pronounce and spell, but they can also cause a child to be teased unmercifully.

Phillips acknowledges the desire to tie a child's name to a parent's heritage is a beautiful sentiment, but in her opinion, if that child is being raised in the U.S., early childhood might be more difficult with an Indian name than a Western one, much in the same way that a Westernized name might make life difficult for a child growing up in a non-English-speaking country. 

#NoLimitsOnNames

Many people were incredulous upon reading the column's advice. The New York Times's John Eligon looked to a number of parents for insight on the topic. One parent, in particular, Valarie Kaur, is a third-generation Sikh from California:

She named her son Kavi, which means poet, because two of his great-grandfathers were poets. She said she planned to choose a similarly meaningful name for her unborn daughter.
'Abby is clinging to an old America, where white is considered the norm and everything else deviant and inferior.' Ms. Kaur added that she and her partner believed it was more important for a child’s name to connect them to their heritage than for it to be easy to pronounce.

Phillips's advice delineates two types of names: white and non-white. Her column sends the message that anything in the latter category is unwelcome in an American setting, perpetuating division in the process. 

#MakeItEasyOnTheKid

Abby's point is about the nature of early childhood more so than it is about what everyone should name their kids. Teasing is universal, and kids don't recognize sentiment, meaning or culture behind names they haven't heard before. Phillips is making the point that popular names will likely prevent children from this particular brand of bullying. If nothing else, short, simple names build confidence in children at a young age, as they will learn how to spell their name quickly.

Eligon also spoke with Ike J. Awgu, a lawyer from Ottawa, on the topic:

Mr. Awgu, whose father is from the former Biafra and whose mother is from Antigua, said that while his given first name was Ikechukwu, certainly not the easiest name to pronounce, his middle name is Jonathan. He goes by 'Ike,' he said, because it is easier for Canadians to understand. Yet he snickered at the suggestion that he was in any way abandoning his culture by using a simplified version of his real name.
The reality, Mr. Awgu, 34, said, is that long, foreign-sounding names do not end up sticking. 'The practical effect of that is nobody calls them that,' he said. 'So they end up with some truncated name that is Anglicized any way.'

Culture transcends names. For Awgu, the name he goes by has nothing to do with his connection to his culture or lack thereof. The Dear Abby column is not advising against raising children with influences from cultures outside of America; it's simply making a point about how children are treated across the board.  

#NoLimitsOnNames

Phillips may claim that she is trying to protect kids, but her privilege blinds her to the danger behind her own advice. By advising parents to choose popular, Americanized names for their children, Phillips is unwittingly encouraging the oppression of other cultures and minority groups. 

One opinion writer for CNNSarah Hosseini, went so far as to say: 

...your insistence on normalizing a name for white Americans is actually the very definition of cultural imperialism....

The man who originally asked Dear Abby for advice explained that his wife was born and raised in India and wanted to give their children Indian names. He asks: "How can I make my wife understand that having 'unusual' names makes certain aspects of kids' lives more difficult?"

Regarding the columns response, Hosseini had this to say: 

Suggesting that [this man's wife] not 'saddle a kid with a name he or she will have to correct' is blaming her for preserving tradition and culture.
Being Indian, having an Indian name, or having any non-Western-sounding name is not something that has to be a hardship. It should not be stigmatized. But in many places, it still is because people like you, [Jeanne Phillips,] in positions like yours, perpetuate this kind of thinking. In this column, you reinforced the worst fears for multiethnic families: that the world is not as open-minded as we thought; that we are naïve in thinking our children, with their ethnic names, should be accepted just the same as little John or Susie.
FINAL RESULTS
Culture
Should you give your kids names that are 'easy' to pronounce?
A festive crown for the winner
#MakeItEasyOnTheKid
#NoLimitsOnNames