Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Arabish Names

There are some Arabic names that I could never inflict on my future children. This is mostly because no matter how well I speak Arabic...I think in English. For those readers who are not Arab it's important to know that for most Arabs, the meaning of a name is very important. Sometimes its meaning supercedes the way the name sounds. Having grown up in America...where people sometimes create names (my sister included) and most people may only have a vague idea if any of what their name means, the way a name sounds becomes VERY important.

During the course of our marriage and the resulting three children, my husband and I have had many discussions and some serious fights about what to (or what not to) name our children. Here is a list of some names that are flat out rejected and will NEVER be considered.

Banned Names (M or F for gender)

Turki (M) (also spelled Turky) - gobble gobble

Nayif (M)- pronounced like 'knife'

Bender(M)- uh...why's he bending or what's he bending?

Anas (M)- Too close to 'anus' to be comfortable with that name.

Abeer (F)- Budweiser or MGD?

Lamaa (F)- sure to be pronounced llama

If you think these names are bad on their own, just try hyphenating them for a whole new twist:








It also gives new meaning to the phrase, "I'll have a-beer".


Anonymous said...

LOL!I wanted to name my second child Reem,but then thought of the way she would be teased when she grows up, Reem=Rim. It is hard living in a place where a name is not pronounced properly so we ended up naming our kids easy names with no "gh,kh,dh" etc sounds. :) sf

UmmAbdurRahman said...

i have a saudi friend. She is from jeddah and her husband from riyadh. mashaAllah some of the nicest people I've ever met. they recently just moved back home after an 8 year stint in the US.

now, back to the real reason I'm commenting. Her eldest son is named Turki. My son adores him. When i first told him that the boy's name is turki he looked at me and said "turkey sausage???"

he was just so serious. i told him not to say that again, but for months later everytime he saw him he said aaaaahhhh TURKI! and then would look at me and whisper quietly while shaking his little finger at me...Turki NO SAUSAGE.

his mom just loves when i tell that story. The teachers at school made the students call him Turk because they made fun of him so much. He told his parents why did you do this to me. Turki is food not a name!

Cairogal said...

First anon, I love the name Reem for a girl. Very sweet! I taught so many children who came from Arabic-speaking backgrounds that I have a pesonality assignde to every name. "Marwan" is definite no-go for a boy. Too many pains in the ass w/ that name! I like the names that sound less Arabic, and more internationally non-specific. For a boy: Sayf, Ziad, Tamer. For a girl: Rana, Reem, Maryam. My own husband is an Abdel ____, but it's a nightmare keeping non-Arab paperwork straight. First name: Abd; Middle Name: El...you get the picture!

Sand Gets in My Eyes said...

One of the absolute funniest SNL skits I have ever seen took advantage of this very thing - names that mean one thing in Arabic and quite another in English, or at least sound like it. I literally laughed until I cried.

And as far as names go, I'm right with Cairogal in that certain names carry baggage that I wouldn't wish on any child!

Aysha said...

I fell off the couch from laughter, and my husband who knows that I am not easily humored was soon to join the ride!!


أبو سنان said...

That is funny. I know an Abeer, Anas and a Lama (Lema).

We had the same thoughts in mind. It goes the other way as well.

Our oldest is Sinan, which as you know is very close to the Arabic "sanoon". When he was one I ran into an Egyptian friend of mine when I had Sinan with me.

I introduced Sinan to this Egyptian guy and Sinan smiled at him. At this point Sinan only had one tooth.

I told the guy "Ismu Sinan"(His name is Sinan). Sinan smiled and his one tooth was there to see and the guy said "La, ismu Sanoon."(No, his name is tooth) It was cute.

Our youngest is Sayf, not sure how much ribbing he will get if we stay in the states, but it is an old fashioned type name from the Gulf that we like.

My wife went to school in the states, and although she never thought about it, I wondered how much people made fun of her name. Manal..........M-anal. You get it.

I have a regular American name and even I got made fun of, so in the end there is nothing you can do about it.

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

In case any of you ever see the name ابو شثيد(pronounced Shi-theed) in my comments section...that's my husband! It's actually "shithead" pronounced with the t+h as 'th':P Any one who watches "Mind of Mencia" will get that one. One of my favorite ones from SNL many moons ago is "Asswipe Johnson" pronounced "Asweepay".

SF- I have the same letter ban in place only I've included "ط,ق"

Ummabdurrahman- names like that just say "please kids, kick the snot out of me" don't they?

Cairogal- Sayf was another one I hold reservations on...cuz I'd rather be "Sayf" than sorry:P

SGIME- If you've seen any SNL over here...please tell me how and where and how much! I've been an SNL fan since I've been allowed to stay up past 11pm.

Aysha- not all Arabic speakers "get" this post so I'm glad you liked it. Even my husband only barely acknowledges the humor in it. Having said that, I can fully appreciate how gulf Arabs react when they here the name "Mississippi" for the first time.(for anyone who doesn't understand why that's funny there's no way in hell I'm gonna explain it!)

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

أبو سنان
I got there too late when one of my friends named her new daughter Lamaa. By then, I didn't have the heart to tell her. Good thing they'd left the States by that point. Kids had a field day with my weirdo foreign name in school and it took till I was an adult to both forgive my parents, and learn to love my name.

Anonymous said...

I love visiting your blog because it's fun to read but I had a couple of things I wanted to say because they made me uneasy.

Naif, Nayiff sound nothing like knife to me! Na-yiff as opposed to n-eye-'f

Enes is a significant name in Islam, I can't believe you think it sounds like "anus". I don't hear the resemblence.

Enes, Anes - N-S. Not "ay-nuss".

You know what I mean?

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

Ruby- I get what you mean. All of these names, when pronounced absolutely properly, don't sound like their English counterparts. But therein lies the problem...the possibility for that slight degree of mispronunciation...especially when written in English script with all the variant pronunciations possible, it's just waiting to be said wrong!

For example, in my midwestern American accent, if I say the name Nayaf (Naif, Nayif) it comes out exactly like knife said a bit slowly and southern. Same thing with Anas. When my husband told me his cousin named his boy Anas, I did everything I could to stifle my snickering.

Remember, if we're talking about how many Americans may pronounce these names, you must keep in mind there are people who say America is "fightin' them Ayrabs in Iyrack".

Cairogal said...

It's Azzzweeepay!

sunil said...


Casmee said...

Hilarious! You crack me up!

Anonymous said...

I have to correct my second daughter's name coz they pronounce it as NOEL. I simply spell it for them and show them how it's pronounced. And here I was thinking that it would be easy! Hmmph! sf :)

Marie-Aude said...

Nayif ... in French it would sound like naive :)

Yes youy're right, many names are difficult to bear in another language.

Thanks for your humour

PS : one of my nephew is called Anas. In Moroccan it's really An-Ass, so I never made the link. And now... you're a bad girl ;)

Organic-Muslimah said...

That's why my parents gave me an American name :D

I know the family ummAbdurRahman is talking about, what a weird name to call your son, Turkey?

Manal said...

Salam Alikum,

I happen to stumble upon your site through Organic's. Nice to meet another Saudi woman blogger! So, how long did you live in the states? How is life in Al-Hassa? I also read that you are a Special Ed major and that you are not too fond of the Special Education System in Saudi. You know, I am going to school for the same major as well!:) Hey, maybe I will email you, if you don't mind?

BTW.......funny post!!LOL Just like Abu Sinan mentioned, we knew several people with the names mentioned.....With Sinan, I remember my oldest sister cracking up on the phone (she lives in Saudi) when I told her we named him Sinan........she was like change the name or they will call Marc "ya abu-s'nan".........if you know what I mean!?LOL (father of the teeth) I was like, what ever, people will almost always find something to make fun of period, even when there is nothing....LOL!!:)

Carol said...


To add further fuel to the fire, Bander (Bender) in urdu means Monkey!

I also have to chuckle at how my own name, Carol, gets pronounced by those not accustomed to English. Krol seems to be a favorite or Kah roll with a strong emphasis on the "Kah" sound.

Learning a second language even something like pronouncing a name can be a challenge! When my husband and I married it still took practice on my part to properly produce the "ein" sound in Abdullah! Are you not surprised to learn that most of the time I simply call him "Desert Boy?"


Ida B said...

Love your blog!
Here is a UK perspective:

'bender'= not straight, therefore homosexual.
(Bend as a row of tents)

Incidently, 'going on a bender' does not mean bu**ering the poor bloke. It simply means drinking too much that one cannot possibly stand up straight.

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Umm Yusuf said...


Mona said...

Anas is bad 2 ways, Anus and An ass. You can't win.