What’s in a Name?

“Captain Phasma” trended on twitter for some hours this week thanks to a screencapped Am I the Asshole? post (since deleted from reddit). The potential assholes were a Star Wars fan and his wife whose family reacted negatively when they announced the name they’d chosen for their daughter, due in six weeks: “Captain-Phasma. The whole name like Mary-Kate.”

The post is probably/hopefully a hilarious piece of fiction. The best/worst part to me is that he refuses to name his daughter “Brienne” after Gwendolyn Christie’s Game of Thrones character because his wife watched the series without him and his parents know how upset he is about it how could they even suggest such thing. That plus the vague Olsen Twins shout out leads me to believe it is peak comedy masquerading as a truly terrible idea. But the question is interesting.

AITA for wanting to name my daughter after a Star Wars character?

I was in a training recently and the instructor offhandedly mentioned his young daughter Leia. At break he complimented my Loungefly Artoo purse saying “I’m a huge Star Wars fan” to which I replied, “well, of course, you named your daughter Leia”. And the other instructor, his partner for years, who knew the child in question, was floored. He had never made the connection between his friend’s love of Star Wars and his daughter’s name.

So, no. Naming your daughter after a Star Wars character doesn’t make you an asshole. But there is a difference between naming your daughter Leia, PadmĂ©, SabĂ©, Shmi, Rey, Rose, Jannah, Jaina, Mara, Cara, Jyn, Breha, Amilyn, Hera, Sabine, Numa, Ahsoka, or even Phasma and naming her “Captain-Phasma like Mary-Kate”.

Baby Yoda isn’t Baby Master-Yoda

‘Captain’ is a title, not a name. Little Leia in the above example is not Princess-Leia or General-Leia. That would be silly! All I can think of is young Captain-Phasma in kindergarten with Captain-Janeway and Captain-Reynolds and Captain-Ahab and little Commander-Adama’s inferiority complex because no one in kindergarten understands variety in military rank.

I mean, ‘Khaleesi‘ is also a title, not a name, but at least it is a title in a made-up language?

Daenerys Stormborn has a lot in common with Anakin Skywalker tbh.

My daughter could have been Anakin.

Another reason I think the AITA post is tongue in cheek is that their reason for choosing Captain-Phasma is both parents were bullied in school so they want their daughter to be named after a strong woman. But as completely bonkers as that is, I also kind of get it because I really wanted to name my son Anakin.

My daughter, Aeris, was born just weeks before the premiere of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. I kept ‘Anakin’ on my list of boys names right up to the end. The reaction from family was quite similar to the reddit poster’s description of his family’s reaction to Captain-Phasma: confusion, dismay, and pleading for ANYTHING but that.

And look, they were right. I firmly believe Anakin is a pretty name, for a boy or a girl. And Anakin Skywalker will always be my favorite fictional character of all fictional characters. But he’s also Darth Vader and Darth Vader is a monster. And the prequel characterization of Anakin is somewhat polarizing. It’s a lot of baggage for a baby, or any kid interacting with other kids.

Leia, Jacen, Qi-ra, and Kerste

The thing about Star Wars names is most of them aren’t that weird. Luke, Ben, Rose, and even Han are “real” names. The son I decided not to name Anakin could very well have ended up an ‘Orlando’. Leia, Jacen, and Qi-ra are just alternate spellings of Leah, Jason, and Kira. I wouldn’t encourage the use of Qi’ra, even though I love the character, because it can be easily mispronounced as “queer-a” and I see that ending badly. But I think Leia and Jacen are fine.

My older daughter and co-host is named after her grandmother, who died when I was young. My aunt once told me her Swedish immigrant parents chose to name my mother “the American version of Kirsten” and made up the (again “American”) spelling ‘K-e-r-s-t-e’, but I didn’t think anything of it. I grew up hearing my mother introduce herself as “Kerste-rhymes-with-thirsty” and with Kirstie Alley on Cheers. But my daughter tells me her name was mispronounced all the time as “cursed”.

Okay, but WHY WOULD I NAME MY DAUGHTER CURSED???

Her sister, Aeris, also suffers from mispronunciation, most often “Aries”. But Aries is the god of war and a (her!) zodiac sign and that seems more reasonable to me than cursed. If I’m not going to name my child “secretly Vader” I’m also not going to name my child “damned”. My grandparents, like so many parents, just wanted their daughter’s name to be different and special while still traditional. American while still Swedish. But because they spoke and wrote Swedish better than American English they came up with a name easily misconstrued as CURSED.

Mark Hamill and Kamala Harris, from Twitter

Which brings us to Kamala

All week the Republicans have been aggressively mispronouncing newly minted Vice Presidential candidate for the Democratic party Kamala Harris‘s name. This is not new, Kamala put out this adorable lesson in May 2016 . That means they know better and they are doing it on purpose to undermine her. They are bullying her, like children in school. Whatever you might think of Kamala Harris, please, I beg you, don’t do that.

If someone has a name you’re not sure how to pronounce, listen to them when they tell you. Really listen and learn it. People make mistakes when they come across a name from another culture or one that is spelled differently than they expect. That’s normal and understandable. But take the time to learn. And don’t tell anyone and especially a child that they misspell or mispronounce their own name. I promise you, they do not.

I’m Anika, like Anakin Skywalker and Seven of Nine

Naming a child after a character from a movie, book, or video game is tricky. Naming a child after a relative is tricky. Naming a child is tricky! Something as seemingly innocuous as “Donald” could become decidedly polarizing. My daughters have uncommon first names so we gave them simpler middle names as back up. And encouraged them to give themself a name if they want. I did, more than once, before I found the name that fit ME.

Names are words and words have power. Take it for yourself and don’t hold it over others. Treat people and their names with respect because names are shorthand for identity. And teach your children, too.

  • ‘Kerste’ (curr-stee) is a form of the Swedish name Kirsten and means ‘follower of Christ’.
  • ‘Aeris’ (air-iss) is originally from the Japanese video game Final Fantasy 7 and means air. Eris is also the greco-roman goddess of chaos and the name of a dwarf planet discovered in 2005.
  • ‘Anika’ (ah-nic-uh) is a form of Annika, a Swedish, Dutch, Finnish and German diminutive of Anne, a form of Anna, a representation of the Hebrew name Hannah meaning ‘grace’.

Names are super important in Star Wars! This series will continue with a look at the hidden meanings of names in the Skywalker Saga.

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Breha Written by:

Anika Dane is a writer of words. A dancer of dreams. A pop culture blogger, podcaster and lecturer with a special interest in fairy tales and space opera. A feminist and a fashionista. A teacher and a student. A Social Justice Klingon Warrior Princess who fell in love with the Skywalker family when she was seven years old. Mother of girls. Secretly a dragon.

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