Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Crazy, crazy magic (or babies choose their name)

For as long as I can remember I had known the name I wanted to give to my back then imaginary baby girl. When I met the boy, when we got serious, when we started talking about someday, maybe having kids, we talked about names and we both liked this name SO much that there was no question, that was going to be the name of our daughter, when we had one.

Well, it turns out, life doesn't work like that. For completely unpredictable reasons, a story that is not mine to tell, we were not able to use that name anymore. It has to do a bit with superstition and a lot with not causing unnecessary pain to relatives.

Anyhow, when I was pregnant we made a list of names we liked. At the time we were unsure as to whether or not we were going to use the name we had so long dreamed about, so we kept asking the baby to let us know what her name was. I would talk to the belly and play little games, asking her is your name Julie? Are you a Lena? If that is the case... kick hard now. I talked about all of this with Marcela, a dear friend who is also a very spiritual person. She told me her way of telling me her name was not going to be so straightforward, that maybe, while looking at a list of names, reading a book, looking at a magazine, her name would pop at me, that I, we, would just know.

When my waters broke and I was admitted at the hospital, we still did not know what name we'd choose. But as time was passing we talked about it and even though Mark wanted to use the original name, because a name is just a name, I wasn't so sure. So we agreed on one of our favorite names: Yulia, spelled with a Y to make the pronunciation easy for everyone (J is a soft sound  in English and Dutch, but a hard one in Spanish). The Italian handwriting Giulia made it clear, but we thought that would be complicated for those not familiar with it. So we took the Russian spelling, assuming a Y sound is soft pretty much everywhere.

In my father's side of the family there is a long tradition of using 2, most commonly 3 names; however on Mark's father's side they prefer to keep names simple and short. Mark's mom often talks about how she would have liked to give her sons double names, but it wasn't done, on Mark's dad insistence. We had decided to go for the simple way and choose only one name.

Well, this is where the story starts getting strange. Hours after Yu was born, her paternal grandfather (Mark's father, the one of the simple names) called to ask if we were going to give her a second name and sent us a full list of names in Maya and Nahuatl (native languages of Pre-columbine Mexico). There were many pretty names, but Alitzel  jumped at us. It was the first name on the list and the first time we both immediately agreed on a name. It went well with the name we had already chosen, and we loved the meaning: smiling girl (in Maya). It's funny because I was drawn to names that started with Ali (Alienor, Aline) or liked names that could be shortened to Lizzie or Lexi (Elizabeth, Alexandra). This is all funny because now we have both  the Ali part, and the Litzy part in the same name. Also, the second part of her name, Itzel, comes from  Ix-chel, tha Mayan goddess of love, fertility, pregnancy, childbirth, the moon (!!!), and medicine.

As if that was not special or crazy enough, this morning my sister sent me some photos. Once upon a time, in the summer of 2000, I was a 20-year-old girl who loved tulips (the Dutch's pride!)  and had her uncle take some photos of her. I remember those tulips , I remember crazy-me saying they represented my future kids and naming those flowers Diego and Lucía. Then, my parents printed one of the photos from the photoshoot and put it in a silver frame that we had received as a favor at the baptism of the daughter of some friends of the family (that I didn't even remember at all, until now). Look at what's engraved on the frame:

Her first name, Yulia, comes from latin and it means young (early?), youthful, Jove's child. It is also a Biblical name, associating Julia with curly hair (Scripture references:  Romans 16:15, Acts 27:1-3)

<<By birth a member of one of the great old homes in Rome, Julia was doubtless a member of the imperial court and therefore among the saints to be found in Caesar’s household. Perhaps she was the wife or sister of Philologus with whose name she is coupled. She is named among those to whom Paul sent a warm salutation. The extension of her name, Julius, implies, “curly-headed”>>*

And it's also of course the feminine version of one of my favorite authors, Julio Cortazar (who loved crazy coincidences!). So that's how Yulia Alitzel, our young laughing girl with culy hair got her name.
*All the women of the Bible. Herbert Lockyer. Zondervan. First published as 'The women of the Bible' in 1967.


  1. Oh it's so hard to choose a name! I don't know what name you wanted to use before, but I absolutely love the name Yulia!

    We (more or less) know what baby's name will be, but I always second guess myself!

    1. The name we wanted was Lucía, because that's the name of the main character, La Maga, in my favorite novel (Rayuela / Hopscotch), also because of Lucy from the Chronicles of Narnia, and Lucy from the Peanuts (yeah she's kind of annoying but I always really liked her), because of the story of St. Lucia, and I think there were other Lucias from movies or literature that I can't remember now.

      We also really love Yulia though and it suits her so well. Another funny fact is that my parents were also planning on naming me Julia / Juliana / Julieta or some variation of it.

      It is hard, naming a person huh ? So much influence....

  2. Hahaha, sí de hecho me imagino que casi hasta el momento de tener al bebé en las manos es difícil saberlo. Me preguntaba de dónde había salido Alitzel. Cuando nací, que Itzel no era un nombre "tan común" mis papás insistieron en que era náhuatl y al parecer es que Ixchel es maya y la escritura Itzel se usaba más en zonas náhuas. Así que nunca he sabido qué decir, sí el significado que pones aquí o el náhuatl que es algo así como "el rocío de la mañana"... Nunca me he metido a libros realmente aptos para saberlo. De cualquier modo Alitzel me encantó. Y Yulia suena muy bien. :)

    1. Sí, de verdad es complicado. Lo de Alitzel de verdad fue mágico y rarísimo que viniera del papá de Mark precisamente. Pero luego que mi hermanita descubriera el nombre en ese marquito ayer... vi las fotos y a la vez que sonreía sentía escalofríos, así tenía que ser.
      También vi el significado náhuatl de Itzel que mencionas (creo que está en uno de los enlaces), me encanta esto de los lenguajes y ver como todo está relacionado. Aparte de tí, sólo conozco a otra Itzel, compañera de la preparatoria, y es curioso porque a ella y a mí siempre nos confundían, decían que nos parecíamos. Yo no sabía que era un nombre náhuatl, no sé porque me sonaba a vasco. Creo que porque el sonido tz también se usa mucho por allá?
      Gracias! De verdad era su nombre, nos encanta como suena. Ahora esperamos no haberla metido en lios de por vida con aquello de estar repitiendo todo el rato: "Soy Yulia, pero se escribe con Y no con J".

  3. Me borró mi comentario, pero decía que sí en Madrid les sonaba vasco y de cualquier modo terminaba deletreando nombre y apellido. Pero no te preocupes, somos muchos, supongo que incluyéndote, debemos deletrear apellido-nombre o ambos. Y será muy internacional, así que está lindo. :)


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