Unusual Names in Cuba

In my valiant and selfless pursuit of the wordiest of news, I ran across this article from Fox News Latino:

Julio or Juliabe? Inventing Baby Names Popular in Cuba

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 on the island is a common practice 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.

“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.

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.

Read more: http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/lifestyle/2012/05/07/julio-or-juliabe-inventing-baby-names-popular-in-cuba/#ixzz1uIgiX3b9

Um… do you know — can you even conceive of — a linguist who would consider an unusual name “a problem and a provocation” rather than “a delicious piece of brain candy”? And check this out:

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.

I just don’t even know where to go with “moral damage” from a name. I think you’d have to go pretty far out of your way. Maybe “VivaElDiablo Gonzales”? “EstoyMoralmenteDañado Garcia”?

In contrast, here’s an article on the same topic from The Daily Beast:

“The island’s best-known antigovernment blogger is a 32-year-old philologist named Yoani Sánchez…. Sánchez theorizes that in one of the world’s last remaining Stalinist regimes, fashioning a bizarre name from whole cloth has been one safe way of flexing creative muscles without running afoul of the authorities. ‘Cuba is a country where everything was rationed and controlled except the naming of your children,’ she says. ‘The state would tell you what you would study and where, and creating names was a way of rebelling.'”

via Why Cubans Have Such Unusual Names – The Daily Beast.

AHA! “VivaElCounterRevolution Gonzales”! “CubaLibre Garcia”!

The moral of the story: always check your sources, kids.


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