The name game

MALAYSIA - When it comes to choosing their babies' names, most Malaysian parents make sure they bear good meanings.

Were you named after a rock star, or a famous politician? Or do you have a name so common, three people in your class also had it?

Will the real 'S. Lim Shady' please stand up?

Have you laughed at another person's name, or at celebrity babies' names?

Recently, the world excitedly anticipated the birth of the British royal baby, and then waited for Prince William and Kate Middleton to announce his name: Prince George Alexander Louis. It's a lot more complicated to name the royal baby as so much history is connected to it.

But even for us, commoners, naming a child is one of the most important tasks parents have because the name becomes the child's identity.

Names are so important that there are countries, such as Sweden and Denmark, that have laws governing what names can or cannot be given.

While some families already have a name in mind even before the baby is born, others make a list and consult family and friends for suggestions.

In Malaysia, some parents just reach for a book of names for inspiration. But for most, it's just not enough to find a nice-sounding name for their child; it must also be auspicious and bring good tidings. Different ethnic groups have different ways of ensuring that their children are blessed with good names.

But how ever they do it, naming a newborn is a special task. Some parents share with Star2 how they name their children.

Value in numbers

Insurance Advisor, Andy Mervin George, 32, formed his daughter's name using numerology because he believes there is a relationship between numbers and the universe. The numerical value of a person's name plays a significant role in their destiny and relationships through life.

"As soon as we knew we were having a girl, my wife and I had a name in mind. The only thing we needed to do was to consult a numerologist about our daughter's date of birth, so we could sort out the spelling and so on," said Andy.

"Each letter in her name will have a numeric value according to the numerology chart. The letters in her full name are totalled, which forms two digits. These are added till a single digit is found and that digit had to tally with our baby's date of birth. And that's how we came up with Amelia Andy Tham Shiin E with my first name being her second name, and the double 'i's in 'Shiin and so on'," shared Andy.

Consulting the astrologer

Some Hindu families consult an astrologer to name their children. While numerology features in part of the naming process, other factors are taken into play as well.

"The first syllable of one's name is very auspicious. They are based on the Indian birth star called Rasi in the Indian zodiac calendar. What quarter of the year the child is born in is also taken into consideration," said mother of two Chandrasena Ramakrishna who also used numerology to form her children's names to ensure they have good health and luck.

"My husband and I were given the letter 'A' to begin our daughter's name. And as we passed the word around, we came up with a name we both liked and named her Ashika Sri."

"As for my son who was born in May this year, we consulted the same astrologer who provided the letters 'R' and 'U' as the possible first syllables for his name. We then looked some names up on the Internet and came across a few Sanskrit ones that we liked and eventually decided on Rushyan Rao. Coincidentally, the name also met the required numerology value," said Chandrasena.

"It might sound very complicated, but it's also very interesting and can be an enjoyable journey in discovering names. Along the way, we even came up with other names that could be suggested to family and friends who required a certain letter or syllable to form their child's names."

Arabic inspirations

Information Specialist Ain Ashura Aziz Zaman, 37, and her husband gave their two girls names with good meanings in Arabic. She said that is the norm among her family members and friends, and many usually opt to name their sons after Prophets.

"In Islam, it is sunnah (recommended) to give your children names that have good meaning in Arabic. It is also a sunnah to name your child on the first or seventh day after the birth," shared Ain who decided that her daughters' names would start with the letter 'A', like hers.

"I always had the names Ariana or Adriana in mind and when my husband and I had our first girl, her name was pretty much decided. We went with Adriana and were assured it had a good meaning as well. As for my second girl, the letter 'A' again was a must and we came up with Ashlee. However, we thought Ashlee was too short and added Sofea.

"So my two girls are Adriana and Ashlee Sofea," said Ain.

Biblical references

For most Christian families, the Bible is the world's largest resource for baby names.

Mother and homemaker Renitha Prakas, 31, from Johor Bahru took her elders' advice and named her daughter after a saint.

"As first-time parents, naming our child was one of the most joyous moments throughout my pregnancy. My husband and I were very excited and several names came to our minds," she shared.

They decided on a saint's name because they believe it would bring their child a good life.

"Coincidentally, I kept hearing this particular saint's name everywhere I went and it kept coming up in conversations and at the movies. It was like a sign.

"And so with that name in mind, I decided to look it up on the Internet to see what it meant, and found out that it was the patron saint of France.

It so happened that Renitha was working in a French company at that time, so she took it as another sign the name she kept hearing was meant to be her daughter's name.

"When I suggested it to my husband, he liked it very much as well. Therefore, we named our princess Isabel. Her second name Sophia is also a saint's name," said Renitha.

Yin and yang

There's a common Chinese saying: "Instead of giving your child gold, teach him a skill. Instead of teaching a skill, bestow a good name upon your child."

Although Calvin Teh and Evelyn Ng decided to go with a combination of both their names and a memorable event to form their daughter's name, they still consulted an astrologer to come up with an auspicious name.

Valentina's name is a combination of her parents Calvin and Evelyn's names, as well as to commemorate their first date on Valentine's Day.

"Information such as date and time of birth is provided to a Chinese sifu. Based on his analysis, the sifu can tell which one of the five elements is lacking from the baby's chart," said Teh.

In Chinese astrology, it is believed that the universe is made of five elements - metal, water, wood, fire and earth. A person's birthdate, called the pillars of destiny, will be defined by these elements. To have a good life, a person's five elements must be balanced.

"After an analysis, the sifu will explain the lacking element in the child's life, and suggest a Chinese character (hanyu pinyin character) that contains the missing element to balance the yin and yang energy.

"He will then list some names. Together, the parents will form a suitable name for their child from this list," explained Teh.

In the end, they named their daughter Valentina Teh Shuen Ru. "Calvin and I had our first date on Valentine's Day and we thought it would be a good idea to combine our names and include a sweet memory from our past to form her first name.

"It turned out that Valentina is a Spanish name and means 'strong', so it is definitely a good choice," said the proud mother.

Shared patterns

Many families tend to follow a certain pattern when naming siblings. For example, if their firstborn's name begins with the letter A, the other children's names will follow suit.

Sisters Shamini, Sharmila and Shalini have always been branded as "The 3S".

"I believe my parents named us Shamini, Sharmila and Shalini because they liked how the names rhyme, plus all three names have good meanings in Sanskrit," said eldest sister, Shamini.

Her sisters-in-law S. Subaashnii and Neeta Panicker also named their second children after their firstborns.

"During my first pregnancy, my husband and I knew we were expecting a girl. We thought up a few names and liked Akshara in particular. As soon as we knew we were expecting another girl, we decided to go with the letter A, for Akshara's little sister. That's how we came up with Areeya," said college lecturer Subaashnii, who also consulted an astrologer to make sure her daughters' names adhere to numerology principles.

As for homemaker Neeta, she made sure her two daughters' names had the same number of letters. "For our first girl, we simply listed a couple of names we liked. After getting our immediate family's input, we decided on the name Neha. And when the second girl came along, my husband and I wanted her name to be short and sweet as well, so a four-letter name was a must. We did a numerological calculation as well and came up with Lara," said Neeta.