Traditional baby names are making a comeback in Asian families: Study - EasternEye

Traditional baby names are making a comeback in Asian families: Study


By Nadeem Badshah

MORE Asian families are giving their children traditional and rarer names, according to experts.

Research carried out by Oxford University said parents are in pursuit of “virtue in rarity” and choose distinctive names and alternative spellings.

Academics analysed 170 years of names in the UK, including the rise in popularity of Indian names after independence in 1947, and found that choices form “a self-correcting feedback loop, whereby rarer names become common because there are virtues perceived in their rarity, yet these perceived virtues are then lost upon increasing commonality”.

Anil Bhanot OBE, founding member of Hindu Council UK, told Eastern Eye: “Hindu families search for Sanskrit names which are shorter and easier to roll off the tongue but are still in keeping with tradition

“In my family, new babies (have names) like Adi and Lavi. Adi is first in Sanskrit, Lavi must be from Rama’s sons Luv and Kush.

“Luv’s kingdom after Rama became Lahore and the Gujarati Lohana community are Luv descendants.”

The Oxford University researchers analysing changes in baby names between 1996 and 2017 also found that among the fastest-rising names reflecting the growth of the UK’s Muslim community are Musa and Dawud – both prophets in Islam – and Zayn.

Among girls, popular choices are Ameerah, Aasiyah, and Imaan.

Sikh families traditionally say a prayer in front of their holy book when a baby is born. They then open a page of the text at random and the first letter or word usually inspires the name they choose.

Historic names for boys that are trendy include Arjun, one of the Sikh gurus, and Nachattar.

And for girls, a common one is Bakshi, according to the Sikhs in England think-tank.

Harmander Singh, a spokesman for the group, told Eastern Eye: “There is a trend of going for meaningful names rather than anglicised names. They should have meaning rather than looking good on paper -you don’t need to call your daughter Apple or Peaches like pop stars do.

“Names going back to our grandparents and great-grandparents in India are coming back, like Arjun or Arjan.

“My son is called Terlochan, which means ‘third eye’ or intuition.”

The study of trends for names comes as campaigners called for anonymous CVs in order to tackle racial discrimination in the jobs market.

A US study showed that British firms appear more likely to discriminate than the Germans and Dutch, with researchers sending the same CV to employers with different names. The paper, published in the journal Sociological Science, gave Britain a hiring bias score of 55 per cent, below Sweden on 65 per cent and France on 83 per cent.

Singh added: “Names are important. It’s your personal identity. You should be proud of it and not change it to solve someone’s problem like on a CV and ‘Trumpism’.

“It gives them ammunition. Why be fake and betray your innate identity?”

Writer Suchandrika Chakrabarti has looked into the roots of her Bengali surname which means “ruler of the country” or “emperor.”

She said: “The surname is used by Brahmins in the Indian states of West Bengal.

“It describes a ruler whose status means his chariot can go anywhere, without obstruction. The surname is honorific. At some point way back, my dad’s family swapped the family name they already had for this prize.

“My name means “beautiful moon” in Sanskrit. My mother carried it around with her for decades, through other times that she named baby girls, in the hope that she would give it to her daughter one day.

“She did eventually, on a spring night in London, illuminated by a full moon.”

Dr Stephen Bush, one of the Oxford University researchers who carried out the study, said finding modern-sounding rare first names was difficult.

He said: “Towards the present day, we can speculate that the comparatively greater range of media, freedom of movement, and ability to maintain globally distributed social networks increases the number of possible names, but also ensures that they may more quickly be perceived as commonplace.

“Consequently, contemporary naming vogues are relatively short-lived, with many name choices appearing a balance struck between recognisability and rarity.

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