Oh, boy! The quandary of naming Mr. Baby

Discovering the gender of the baby answered one of the questions people asked me the most (aside from, “What are you craving?”). We discovered at 20 weeks, 1 day during our routine 20-week ultrasound. I quickly put together gender reveal scratch-off tickets to mail to family and friends to announce the news! After everyone received their scratch-offs, I made it “Facebook official” and posted a picture:


If the picture and the title of the post didn’t sum it up, we’re having a boy! For some reason, people thought we HAD the baby already. Who takes pictures of shoes instead of their child? Not this mama-to-be… The yellow squeaky bone is, of course, for our puppy Ambu.

The one comment I got the most was, “[your husband]’s family must be so happy!” This was mostly from Americans, so I’m not quite sure if they said that because they thought male babies are better than females to Indian families? Or because it is our first child? If so, it was actually the opposite response.

I think most families hope for the gender that they have less of in the family. In my family, there is ONE boy in the past two generations. My grandpa calls him “King Sean” for this reason, and he sits (quietly) in the center of a plethora of princesses. This newest generation has introduced two more little princesses to the mix. My family was hoping for a boy.

My husband’s family is the exact reverse. Of all the siblings and cousins, there is ONE girl. Little Priya is all to herself in a sea of annas (big brothers). Per my husband, this newest generation has seen no girls being born. My husband’s family was hoping for a girl.photo3

My husband had become quite smitten with the idea of girl too, and expressed (with a sigh) that he thought it would be a little nice to have a princess to dote on. I had been careful (for myself) to refer to the baby as “it,” “baby,” and “little person” instead of using gender pronouns, and I had gotten pretty anxious over others’ reactions when the news was revealed.

While we may have lost the opportunity to raise the “strong female science genius” (male geniuses being somewhat passé, of course)– we never lost the opportunity to raise an awesome little person to present to the world–and I’m thrilled.

Luckily, everyone has had 20 weeks to hope and wonder, and has 20 more weeks to adjust to reality. A baby boy is on the way! I believe everyone has since recovered, and picking out the name I think helped the most with that.

The name

Anyone who is in a multi-cultural relationship, and has been faced with naming their child, may be able to relate with the quandary of finding a name that fits well into the niche where the two cultures overlap. We decided long before we got pregnant that we were going to pick a Tamil first name.

I gave my husband some rather strict criteria as we wanted a Tamil name (and male Tamilian names are notoriously long):

  1. Must be two syllables or less
  2. Must be somewhat easy to spell and pronounce by Americans
  3. Must survive the 1st-grade-quality onslaught I will render upon it

Case in point:


rat16Let me introduce my child.

Yes, my dear American compatriots, a rodent stomach. No, it is not pronounced that way. It’s actual a very nice name (or so I’m told). Religious, significant. The name of a god. If you Google “Ratnavel” as one word, Google images will present a lot of smiling Indian faces. However, my darling boy is not going to be named this. My dad gave his vote for this one. Thanks, dad. Next!


Wait? How is that spelled, again? You’ve got to be kidding me. I gave you THREE criteria… meeting two of the three is not sufficient.

This went on for some time, lists and lists of Tamil names. Plenty for a country with a long, rich history and large population. We nearly cried with laughter over the reality of some names and their inevitable existence in an American English context. “Hello ladies, my name is Cowshakan–not stirred…might I buy you a drink?”

We ended up with a list of four, very nice names–none of which succumbed to a good old-fashioned 7-year-old onslaught of insults–none suggested that my son might be the “smelt-it-dealt-it” of a fart, due to convenient rhyming. They were Tamil, male, two syllables long, and acceptably pronounceable by native American English speakers. Glorious.

I would love to share it; however, I made a decision that I wasn’t going to share his name on social media–especially his full name. Just know that the happy medium existed and both sides of the family sighed in relief.


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