Cuban parents give kids unique names

May 7th, 2012 - 3:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Havana, May 7 (IANS/EFE) Odlanier, Aledmys, Usnavi, Olnavi and Disami are among the unusual first names that parents have bestowed on their children in recent decades in Cuba, where experts and the press are calling for a study of this social phenomenon and for the creation of clearer legal regulations to govern the practice.

Inventing first names is a common practice on the island employing both creativity and originality to provide a “unique” moniker for children, although often the name that emerges is “unpronounceable” and difficult to understand, the government newspaper Juventud Rebelde reported.

The trends for selecting a first name in Cuba include adapting words from other languages, forming hybrids by combining parents’ names, inverting words or even assembling absolutely new combinations of letters and syllables that have no apparent explanation.

Resulting from the multitude of techniques are names such as Robelkis (Roberto and Belkis), Migdisray (Migdalia and Raymundo), Geyne (Geronimo and Nelly), Yaneymi (Yanet and Mijail) and Mayren (Mayra and Rene).

The recurrent option of inverting the letters of other names has created more unusual combinations, such as Ailed from Delia, Adianez from Zenaida and Orazal from Lazaro.

Among the most unusual cases are the Cuban adaptations of foreign words and terms, many of them from English: Leydi from “lady”, Maivi from “maybe”, Olnavy from “Old Navy”, Usnavi from “U.S. Navy” and Danyer from “danger”.

“There was a time when you couldn’t use just any name of foreign origin; that decision from the judicial realm transcended the linguistic,” researcher Aurora Camacho told Juventud Rebelde.

On the island, older more traditional cultural names like Maria and Pedro are still given to children, of course, but “certainly with less frequency”, Camacho, a member of the Cuban Institute for Literature and Linguistics, said.

The ancient custom of consulting the calendar of saints’ days and assigning names on that basis “has been forgotten”, given that the country’s laws do not permit a person to have more than two such names - a first name and a middle name - Camacho said.

Many of the invented names present “challenges, a problem and a provocation for all linguists”, Camacho said.

Cuban laws are ambiguous and do not help the situation because, for instance, they generally state that people have the freedom to select names corresponding to their traditions, as well as educational and cultural development, Camacho said.

She said that the role and empowerment of civil registrars in hospitals must be increased so that they may function as “guides” for parents in selecting names for their children.

In Cuba, there is also a tradition of using names from other cultures, resulting in many children bearing names such as Yuri, Boris, Tatiana, Yordanka, Katia, and so on, and also of using exotic-sounding geographical terms such as Yasnaya, Hanoi and Yakarta.

There also exist cases where personal pronouns have been combined - for instance the Spanish “yo, tu, el” (I, you, he) to produce Yotuel. Also, the word “si” (yes) has been added to other combinations as a suffix, as in Dayesi and Widayesi.

The invention of names using the first letter “Y” has been a continuing practice over several generations and is now a tradition in Cuba, resulting in names such as Yanisey, Yumilsis, Yumara, Yosbel, Yadel, Yulieski, Yovel, Yolaide, Yamisel, Yirmara, Yoelkis, Yuset, Yohendry, Yoanni, Yander, Yunier, and many more.

Camacho warns about the social and individual problems that can go along with some of these variants, given that many of them do not reveal what the person’s gender might be.

The ambiguity “prejudices the projection of the personality and contributes to moral damage in an individual who is frequently required to explain their name and offer a complete dissertation on how to write it, where it came from and who invented it”, Camacho said.

“A multidisciplinary study of the phenomenon is imperative,” Camacho said, after noting that currently this is “virgin territory” that deserves “a more detailed study that frames it in historical phases”.


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