notes + observations + star addresses
FILIPINOS DON'T MERELY CHOOSE BABY NAMES, WE DESIGN THEM
Ah, the frustrations of finding that perfect baby name. Even before conception, parents debate the potential doom of names like "Richard" (oh, but then they'll call him Dick), "Lise" (no, no, no, it rhymes with sleaze) or "Penelope" (my ex-girlfriend's dog was Penelope) - this last one being a double whammy. For a name not only decides the identity and fate of an innocent baby, it demonstrates the creativity, originality and sophistication of his or her parents. My family could, single-handedly, win awards in all three of these categories. We Filipinos, you see, are masters of name poetry. We don't simply choose names for our children; we design them.
The thing is, Filipinos value alliteration. Read aloud and listen to the harmony of these offspring: Tasha, Tania and Tara; and Jonathan, James and Jaclyn. There is also an advanced variation to this theme, a kind of suffixing. Let me introduce you to my cousins Melissa and Melanie, or to another cousin’s trio of friends: Alvin, Bervin and Chervin (the latter is the only girl). Did you pick up on the clever A-B-C pattern? (Scroll down after reading this article to Comments to see what Chervin named and nicknamed her own kids. It’s pretty awesome.)
We're also a rhyme-loving people. Come to our next potluck and meet Bing, Ching, Lucing, Ping and Ging-Ging. The latter, originally named Guia, has been playfully abbreviated by poets to "Ging," and then duplicated - "Ging-Ging" - to create an affectionate diminutive.
In my family, your birth certificate may read Joseph, Maya and Patricia, but your kin will forever address you as "Jojo," "MiMi" and "Chi-Chi" - hyphenation, spacing and capitalisation are optional and purely esthetic. Pure novelty is the mirrored name. The only other Filipina at my high school was "Aidyl." That's her mom's name backwards - Lydia.
I have a nephew baptized as Jaymie-Daniel. This, no doubt, was Filipino-ized to the short form of "JD." My cousin "EJ" is officially Emily Jane. But at the forefront of this "acronymania" is surely cousin Edith. She christened her kids as (stay with me now) Prianjoni, Janjenali, Ricjeareu, Aronjonel and Caljerell, a.k.a. "PJ," "JJ," "RJ," "AJ" and "CJ." Each invented name counts exactly nine letters to balance their nine-lettered family name, Villaflor. Cousin Edith reigns supreme as Name Poet Extraordinaire.
Last, but not least, is the blended name, a sophisticated form of compounding. My aunt Josie and uncle Nilo named their daughter "Jonille." See what they did there? Josie + Nilo = Jonille. Then there's my third cousin Edward Albert. He goes by "Edal." As 99.99976 percent of Filipinos are Catholic, the Maria-blend (after the Virgin Mary) is ubiquitous: "Marites" = Maria + Teresa, "Marivi" = Maria + Victoria, and "Marilu" = Maria + Lucia. Most noteworthy, though, is the popular triple-blended name "Luzviminda." Usual derivatives are Luz, Lulu (duplication again), Vi, Minnie or Minda. Should you ever meet a Filipina with one of these names, ask her if her birthname is "Luzviminda." If yes, you'll know her parents named her after the main regions of the Philippines: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
Perhaps that's why, secretly, I'm glad that my husband isn't Filipino. We hope to have our own children one day and, unfortunately, I'm not much of a name poet. I do like "Patrick" and "Patricia," but then our kids would suffer with concoctions like "Pat-Pat" (too confusing, a blend that acts as a duplication) or "Trickicia" (too tongue-twisty) or "PP" (imagine the ridicule). Hmmmm, maybe "Richard," "Lise" and "Penelope" aren't so bad after all.
*If you know of any other examples of name poetry, please do share in Comments below!
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