Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Rose By Any Other Name

I enjoy listening to my neighbors discuss the Israeli world at large, and I found one concept really interesting.
It seems, that at least in the neighborhood where I live- Yiddish names are uncommon. In fact, the only people who name their children Yiddish names are those chutznikim who have names from their families in America or Europe.
Strange- no? No Gittels, Raizels, Ettels, Hindas, or Faigas- no Yossels, Feivishes, or Modches.

And, the second strange part is that- not just in my neighborhood, but in most that I know of- even if a child has two names, that child will only be called by one, and usually nicknamed. For example, the Nechama Rivka would become Nechami or Chumi, the Mordechai Yitzchak would become Mordy or Motti.

Heaven forbid that the child should want to be called by both names, or a nickname for the second, like Rivki or Yitzi. (It's actually the opposite in the US- I remember in grade school being asked for my middle name, so they could specifically call me by both.)

Oh, and for those who want to name after Gedolim- Yisroel Meir and Nosson Tzvi are used as common double names, so don't worry.

Oh, and there are some names that have a bit of strange nicknames. Yirmi- Yirmiyahu, Rachmili-Yerachmiel, Shabsi- Shabtai, and so on. I guess Israeli parents have to consider not only what their children's name might be, but what might the nickname given on the street might be.

I don't live in a neighborhood that gives a lot of 'Israeli' names- like Or, Shachar, Tal, Irit, Dafna- so I wouldn't know what goes on in those communities. (It is funny that the so called 'Israeli names' have a lot to do with nature. What about Shoshana or Bluma? Those are considered non-Israeli, yet also have natural themes.) I do think that one of the strangest nicknames I've ever heard of is 'Dudu' for David.

ProfK posted in her absence a post about how family members shouldn't interfere in the naming of a child, unless it is their own child. I wonder what people in Israel do when the family names available are Yiddish, or double names?

Do they resign themselves to giving a double name that will never be used? Do they use Yiddish and fight the system- or translate it into Ivrit?
It's a such an interesting idea. What's in a name- or nickname for that matter? Maybe quite a bit of thought.


Lvnsm27 said...

I have two hebrew middle names but just use one. I switch between my hebrew and english name depending on which one I want to use

Bad4 said...

My brother in Israel cruelly called his daughter "Pesha." I feel for the child, I really do.

nmf #7 said...

Lvnsm27- thanks for stopping by!
I know- it's rather common in the US to switch between the two- I still do it here in Israel sometimes.
Oh- and to give 3 names to a child- well, I think that in the US it is uncommon- here, it's practically unheard of.

Bad4- Don't worry, the street and schools will nickname her soon enough. How about Pessie?

Batya said...

In our community, only a Chabad family used Yiddish names for most of their kids, and one other more chareidi used a Yiddish name. A lot of the young couples have gone back to the classic names, like Chana. And some have used more exotic like "Lev Tahor," pure heart.

rickismom said...

I have a daughter we wanted to name after 2 great grandmas-one Devorah, one Pessyia. So we called our girl Devorah Ester, and told the grandma that "Ester" was our way of naming after Pessia.

Many important Rabbis have mentioned to their families on their deathbeds, NOT to name after them if it will cause an arguement. One, recently reported in the new "Maggid" book (Peysach Khrone) , told his family that if two people died, and one has a living widow, it is preferable to give that name, so the widow has that nechama.

nmf #7 said...

Batya- that's really interesting! I never heard of Lev Tahor- although it's a beautiful meaning.
The Yiddish names, as far as I know, are usually because the parents wanted to name after relatives, who lived in a time when Yiddish names were commonplace.
Rickismom- I'm so glad you were able to resolve that with no hard feelings- there are so many families that I know that have had major machlokes regarding the name- and it's good that our Gedolim have taken some sort of stand on it by insisting not to name after them.
The idea about giving Kavod to an almanah's husband is so wonderful- thank you so much for sharing it!

Jenny said...

I know this isn't exactly what you're talking about, but I'm a secular Jew living near Boston. When my daughter was born, we gave her an English name. But we also had a Simhat Bat for her in which we gave her a "Jewish" name. It was very important to me that we give her the exact name of my grandmother, which was Yiddish. The rabbi (conservative) definitely gave us a bit of grief for not picking a Hebrew name.

Similarly, when my son was born, his English name is the same as my grandfather and his Hebrew name is as well. The mohel (Orthodox) didn't like our Hebrew choice because the English name had a Hebrew equivalent, which was different from the Hebrew name we used. We stuck to our guns there, because I didn't want to deviate from my grandfather's name.

Everyone wants a say on the name! :-)

nmf #7 said...

Jenny- that's really funny!
First of all- a Yiddish name is a 'Jewish/Hebrew' name! In fact- many of my relatives had Yiddish names, as well as many people I know! Sorry your Rabbi gave you grief over that.
And- it is very true everyone wants a say- as I see from your story- even the Mohel!