Ana Ortiz Welcomes Son Rafael

September 25th, 2011

Ana Ortiz is my kind of namer. Perhaps it’s the inherent exoticism that comes with choosing a foreign name.  Perhaps it’s that her choices remain familiar, yet relatively unusual in the United States.

Not long ago, she reached out for suggestions.  She needed something for a boy that would work well in English and Spanish, something that paired well with big sister Paloma Louise.  Something that wouldn’t get totally butchered.

We did our best to answer her call.  Reader suggestions were amazing: Abram, Bruno, Gabriel, Leon, Omar, Tomas.  Any of these would have worked beautifully, and I’d love to run into a little Bruno.

Maybe she looked to You Can’t Call It “It”! after all, because her new baby boy’s name was on our original list.

Joining the Ortiz-Lebenzon household?


I think it’s the perfect mesh for their family.

Did you have similar cross-cultural goals when naming your child?  What was your solution? 

Cuban-Jewish Names

September 1st, 2011

Amelia writes with a very intriguing conundrum.  Please help us find names for her baby:

Hi! I love your blog and thought I’d write in with my own culturally complex name query.

I’m Cuban-American, he’s Jewish, and with a baby on the way, we want to chose a name that’s appropriate to both contexts. We’re planning on hyphenating the baby’s name, so we want a name (or at least a nickname) that’s fairly simple and straightforward to go with the mouthful at the end. So far our top picks are Loretta (“Letty“) or Zoila (“Zadie“) for a girl, or Louis (“Lou“) or Modesto (“Moe“) for a boy. We’re also picking out a corresponding Hebrew name (e.g. Ayelet for Letty, Moshe for Moe).

Any suggestions?

All the best,

Hello Amelia, you’ve come to the right place!  What a fun challenge.  I love that you’re attempting to honor both cultures.  It IS possible.  Your approach, looking at Latin names that can be adapted to Jewish culture via nickname, is so creative, and just my kind of thing.  There are some names that work well in both cultures, and my suggestions are mostly crossovers.

I would like to hear from our readers what Latin names they can come up with that have Jewish nicknames, or visa versa.  So clever!






Jacob / Diego 

Elijah / Elias

Ephraim / Efraim / Efrain


Joachim / Joaquin

Joshua / Josue 



Noah / Noe / Noa



Simon / Shimon



Adina / Adelina

Aliza / Elisa

Chaya / Eva






Rebeca / Rebecca / Rebekah

Rimona / Ramona



Susana / Shoshannah

Thalia / Talia


Image: Michael Eastman

Here’s a delightful challenge!  Nicola and Frankie are expecting twins after having four other children.  As you can imagine, a lot of the good names are taken and they need our help!  She writes:
Hi Elisabeth, my name is Nicola. My husband Francisco (Frankie) and I have four children and are currently expecting our fifth and six — boy/girl twins. Our oldest child is from my previous marriage and her name is Cherry Guadalupe, named for my ex’s mother Cherise and my grandmother Guadalupe. Together Frankie and I have Luis Francisco, Rafael Oscar, and Celesta Persephone. All three of our kids were named after family and friends.

With the twins, Frankie and I want to continue the theme of naming the babies after family and friends but we’ve almost run out of names that we like and wouldn’t mind having our children bear. With all of our other children, their names have some sort of correlation to their godparents’ names. Our son’s godparents are named Ronaldo Luis and Katherine Anne and our daughter’s godparents are named Michael Alessandro and Veta Narcisa.

For our son we thought about using Ronaldo’s intitials but incorporating Katherine’s name in some way. We really like the name Rey (spelled that way–not Ray) and Katherine (who is married to Ronaldo) has a maiden name of Leon Zayas. So, we feel that we should name our son Rey Leon Falto de Garcia. However, we don’t feel completely confident in his name and are still open to suggestions. We will consider other R names and also the idea of using Lorenzo as the middle name (Lorenzo is the hispanic version of Laurence, Katherine’s father’s name). We did consider Rey Lorenzo as well but feel that Rey Leon sounds nicer.

For our daughter we opted to not use any combination of initials but rather to use variants of her grandparent’s names to incorportate. We would like to incorporate my mother’s name, Rosalind, somehow though as well. For our daughter we are kind of considering giving her three names, two as her first and one as her middle. We decided that we would use Veta but we both like Veda better and we would also use Alessandra. So her name would be Veda-Alessandra Rosalind Falto de Garcia. You can see my concern in the fact that she would have an extremely long name and I am not sold on the whole hypenated first name. I have a very long name myself and it has always been a hassle between signing documents and getting documents mixed up due to the fact that they had the wrong first and last name, etc. It’s really just not something I want my daughter dealing with.  I really don’t want to omit Alessandra from the name but we really also want to use Veda and Rosalind or some variant of Rosalind.

If you could help us in deciding on a name for our son and shortening the name of our daughter, it would mean the world to us! They will be here shortly and thinking about them entering the world without definite names is a scary thought for us. We appreciate your help so very much, thank you!

Oh and I mentioned that Cherry is from a previous marriage to clear the air that her name is in fact not Cherry Falto de Garcia — or Cherry Garcia! Her last name is actually just one name, she dodged a bullet on that one!
Congratulations on your burgeoning family!  All the names you’ve chosen so far are just wonderful. For twins, one of your primary concerns might be the length of the name.  Since your surname already consists of three separate entities, and you are adding two children to an already large family, I would definitely err on the side of brevity.  I love the idea of Veda and Rey.  Veda-Alessandra however?  Seems like it could be a burden to both you and your child.
There are several ways to incorporate Veda, Alessandra, and Rosalind into the name without hyphenating the first name. 1) You could hyphenate the middle name. 2) You could use all three names with no hyphen and choose only one for the first name (thereby giving your daughter multiple middle names. 3) You could create a compound name out of Alessandra and Rosalind, which is not terribly uncommon in Latin culture.
Veda Rosalind Alessandra (no hyphen)
Veda Rosandra
Veda Roxane
Rosalind Veda-Alessandra
Rosalind Veda Alessandra
Vedarosa Alessandra
Veda Rosalind Alessia
Rosaveda Alessandra
Rosalia Veda Alessandra
For a boy, you also have lots of great options here!  I’m glad you are feeling comfortable with Rey Leon.  It has the brevity, but also the meaning.  A win-win!  I would also urge you to consider Rey Lorenzo, because the length of Lorenzo actually balances out three letter Rey. Leon and Lorenzo would also be spectacularly handsome as first names, and you could reverse initials:

Rey Leon
Leon Ronaldo
Rey Lorenzo
Lorenzo Rey
Ruben Lorenzo
Ramon Lorenzo
Rex Lorenzo
Andres could also honor Anne, and would give your son his own initial.  If you’re giving your daughter three names, have you thought about doing the same for your son?  For example, Rey Leon Andres or Andres Lorenzo Rey. For a daughter, Michael and Narcisa are also lovely names to play with. Veda Michaela Rosalind? Rosalind Narcisa Alessandra? It’s so much fun to play around.
What say you dear readers?  Do you have a particular favorite from the Falto de Garcia’s list?  How would you honor the godparents in the names?







Ana Ortiz Needs Boy Names

June 1st, 2011

“We know it’s a boy! [We] are trying to come up with some names that we can agree on,” Ortiz, 40, shares in People Magazine.

They’re desperate for a name.

They did so well with big sister Paloma Louise.  ”It has to be Spanish, but something non-speakers can pronounce without mauling,” Ortiz explains. “Suggestions?  I’m open.”

Ana, we hear your call.

Did you have to contend with two languages when naming your baby?  Is it important to you that the pronunciations are similarly in both languages?  What are your favorite boys’ names that work in English and Spanish?