Why Didn’t I Think of That?: Linguistic Checks on Baby Names

By Laurel Sutton

November 18, 2009

Dang! I wish I had been clever enough to think of this first. Well, Catchword will be more than happy to check your baby’s name in any language you want – and it won’t cost you a thousand pounds, either.

Via Reuters (great article, stupid title; if I never see another newspaper piece titled “What’s In a Name” I’ll die happy):

LONDON (Reuters) – A London-based translation firm is offering parents-to-be the chance to check the meaning of prospective baby names in other languages to avoid inadvertently causing their offspring future embarrassment.

Celebrity couple Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes might have thought twice about naming their daughter Suri if they’d known that it means “pickpocket” in Japanese, “turned sour” in French, and “horse mackerels” in Italian, suggest Today Translations.

For 1,000 pounds ($1,678), the company’s linguists will carry out a “basic name translation audit” of names, checking their meaning in 100 languages, or more for an additional cost.

While open to everyone, the firm said it expects the service is likely to attract celebrity clients, who are known for giving their babies unusual names.

Other celebrity baby names it has checked include Kai Rooney, the newborn son of English soccer player Wayne Rooney, whose name means “probably” in Finnish, “pier” in Estonian, and “stop it” in the west African language of Yoruba.

And while musicians Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale may have known Zuma meant “peace” in Arabic when choosing their son’s name, they may not have been aware it also translates as “Lord frowns in anger” in the Aztec language of Nahuatl.

Some unusual celebrity baby name choices are beyond easy translation however, the company admits, such as Jermajesty — the son of Michael Jackson’s brother Jermaine.

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