How to Give a Beautiful & Meaningful Name For a Child

Giving a name for child

Today is a happy day indeed. As a husband, father and would be grandfather, I have always been regarded as a “good-for-nothing” in my family. And now all of a sudden I am given two important assignments.

Primo, I have to look after the house while my wife and my son will go to the local maternity home to wait for the coming of my first grandchild. Nothing can be simpler than looking after the house. I only need to keep the door firmly shut.

Secundo, I have to think of a name for the child that is coming. This is a more complicated job which, in the tradition of Vietnam, has always to be done either by the father or the paternal grandfather. While in the West a list of saints would be consulted for such an occasion, each Vietnamese family has its own rules to observe, rules handed down from generation to generation.

In the countryside, people used to give a child a name as ugly as possible because it was believed that a high-sounding name might attract evil spirits. The practice can be explained by a high infantile mortality rate caused by the lack of hygiene and inadequate medical services. Thus a boy would be called thang cu (Penis), and a girl, cai him (Vagina) or con be (little girl). The official name would be given only when the child had reached a certain age, old enough to begin schooling or to get married.

The meaning of one of the most popular Vietnamese name: "Tuan"
The meaning of one of the most popular Vietnamese name: “Tuan”

Today, because birth certificates are compulsory, a child must be named immediately after it is born, and the name can be that of a tree (Tung=Pine, Truc-Ivory Bamboo), a flower (Cuc=Chrysan – themum, Lan: Orchid), a fruit (Le-Pear, Luu=Pomegranate), an animal (Ho=Tiger, Loc=Stag), an element of nature (Thuy=Water, Loi=Thunder, Van=Cloud), a season (Xuan=Spring, Thu=Autumn), a wish (Phuc=Happiness, Loc=Profit, Tho=Longevity), a place (Ha= of Hanoi, Hai=of Haiphong), or a quality (Dung=Courage, Thien=Goodness, Truc=Uprightness).

Now you can imagine the difficulty I have in choosing for my grandchild one or even two names from so many possible combinations. What is more, I have to prepare myself for two possibilities: the child may be a boy or a girl.

Anyway, the choice one makes on such an occasion will always reveal a little about oneself because it reflects one’s taste, preference, aspiration, etc. It is not an overstatement to say in Vietnam: “Tell me your name and I will tell you of what stuff the person who gave it to you is made.”