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Dilemma: How to name the baby

Updated: May 14, 2018

When you live all over the world, you want to make sure people understand your child’s name. It’s hard for most foreigners to pronounce English names correctly, so I figured we shouldn’t go with something "international".

I have two kids. When the first one came along four years ago, a boy, it was relatively easy. I was interested in finding an easy-to-pronounce Dutch name, and my husband wanted an easy-to-pronounce American name. We found the perfect solution; his American grandfather’s first name was Sander, which also happens to be a common Dutch name I really like.

When I got pregnant again last year, picking a name was suddenly much harder. We couldn’t agree on our grandmothers’ names, and one of them was already taken anyway.

The only names we could agree on didn’t work in both languages (English and Dutch). For example, my favorite name was Sophie. In Dutch, this is pronounced the French way, as in “Sophíe”. The English “Sóphie”, however, sounds a bit weird to me. So my husband nixed the whole idea.

Instead, he wanted to go for something exotic. We met in Nigeria and we always loved the names there. Also, faith had it that our doctor – who basically saved our unborn baby’s life – was Nigerian. My husband scoured the Internet for Nigerian names. He came up with names like Abimbola, Ifeoluwa, Folakemi, and so on. At first, I thought he was crazy.

Then I remembered a girl we knew when we lived in Abuja called Emeka, which I found beautiful. I wondered if we could get away with the name. But I seriously doubted it. Then it suddenly came to me: Kemi. Maybe my mind combined the names Folakemi and Emeka? I quickly searched the Internet for a meaning. Bingo!

Kemi means “precious”, "cherished", and “to be pampered”. Well, that sounded exactly right. After a very difficult pregnancy, my baby girl felt extremely precious. And I was definitely going to pamper her – both literally and figuratively speaking.

When people ask me what my daughter's name is, I use different versions of the same story to reply. When people pronounce it as “Cammie” or “Cami”, I don’t correct them. If they say “Kimmie”, however, I do. When I don’t feel like explaining anything, I tell people I just made the name up. When I feel like talking, I explain all the reasons why we picked a Nigerian name.

In the end, I’m happy with my choice. I don’t see too many diplomats around me opting for exotic names though. I guess it’s still something only celebrities do, even though you could argue we have pretty good reasons to do it too, if we wanted anyway.



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