What To Name Your Kid? Literally ANYTHING You Want.
My son came on Christmas day. Fifty degrees and sunny in the city of Chicago, notorious for its blisteringly cold winters — it’s a day we’ll never forget, and we couldn’t have asked for a better gift.
Some call him the “miracle baby”. Others have heralded, “Behold! The second coming of Yi-zus!”
So when the midwife told us it was time to fill out the birth certificate with the baby’s information, his mother Lorelei and I looked at each other, with the weight of ultimate responsibility in naming our child.
A name is practically forever — you’ve got to think about all the nasty words the kids on the block are going to rhyme with a name. Chester and Nestor never stood a fighting chance.
You also want a name to be meaningful. You sow the seeds of your hopes and dreams into this little one, and it all starts with the name. We wanted the name to represent the rich lineage of our child’s ancestors and tribe — a name that evokes the history, the stories and the inspiration that will propel him through this world.
With all this in mind, we put a lot of thought into our baby’s name. Leo was the first name that instantly clicked with both Lorelei and I. Possibly because it’s a strong name that conjures everything associated with lions. Perhaps it’s because the name is #trending so hard right now. 4 of the last 6 babies I know that were born have been named Leo. And alas, for that very reason, we went against it (no offense to all you Leos out there…still a solid name).
We even thought about all the names that are related to Christmas — Christophe, Noël, Nicolas; but none of them really resonated with us.
Royal Han’r Pement Í — the name was announced to the world via our holiday card.
We received two types of responses.
- Those individuals that had a general outpouring of love for the baby no matter the name, and a genuine curiosity for the story behind the name.
- Those individuals that had a general outpouring of love for the baby, but were genuinely befuddled by the name, whether it was rooted in fear or concern for the baby’s well-being, or because they just couldn’t comprehend a name that went against the grain of the limiting norms that were understood as acceptable in their own minds.
(For all you improv nerds out there, fist bump to what I did up there just now.)
This article is for the former. Below you will find a dissection of Royal’s name and the stories behind it.
Royal: Royal is his first name. It’s a name that I first heard in the movie The Royal Tenenbaums, and just thought what a great name.
Of the 20 or so names that Lorelei and I put on the table, it was one of two that had an agreeable ring to it. You just know as parents when you look at each other — there’s a moment where the name clicks with both of you and y’all smile about it.
It also happens to be that the word royal has its origins in English, via French. Lorelei wanted to represent her dad’s ancestry (French, English and German).
I want to just take a moment here and express the importance we placed on the first name. The first name is the identifier in your name that is most associated with you, and it’s also a part of your name that doesn’t get defaulted to you (as is often the case with last names). So if you will indulge me, let me give you some context.
While Lorelei was pregnant with Royal, we as parents became hypersensitive to the social events of 2016 (Lorelei especially. Hormones during pregnancy is a real thing, and her mama bear instincts were kicking in strong).
The deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile amongst others, by the hands of the police, were cause for countless nights awoken in a cold sweat by the nightmares of her son being brutalized for the color of his skin.
Holding Lorelei in my arms, hearing her say “I hope he doesn’t turn out Black like me”…it ripped my heart to pieces. We live in a world where challenges are always going to exist. But to feel and sense a social climate that’s so disparaging…that beats you down and drives you to sometimes hope that you were something other than what you are, rather than fighting to change a broken system…it’s devastating. And it’s not easy to articulate it to our non-POC brothers and sisters.
We didn’t know what Royal was going to look like. We still don’t really know. He could turn out to appear any mixture of Korean, White, Black or Cherokee. We wanted Royal, the beloved POC in our lives and anyone he’ll ever meet to be constantly reminded that no matter his color, creed or class — he’s royal [ˈroi(ə)l]: excellent, magnificent, superb, wonderful, fantastic, great. Not because he’s better than anyone, but because he’s Human and he has the full potential to manifest his best self.
The post Trump inauguration world has demonstrated with so much hope and inspiration that the very people that Donald attempted to divide, came together in one of the grandest acts of solidarity in Human history. And for us and for many in our tribe, Royal represents that solidarity.
Han’r Pement: Royal’s middle name is comprised of 2 words.
Han’r (Korean: 하늘 [‘haːnɯr]) is the native Korean word for sky or heaven.
To give you a little background on the Korean language — a significant percentage of our vocabulary is borrowed from Chinese. Just as in the Western world where the vast majority of words find roots in Latin and Greek, many Eastern civilizations borrowed its lexicon from China, which had the biggest sphere of influence politically and culturally for centuries in that part of the world.
My own Korean name, Hojun (Korean: 호준 [‘hodʑun] Hanja: 昊俊) follows the traditional Korean naming convention, where a person’s name is generally comprised of 2 separate Hanja (the Korean word for Chinese characters). The first character, “Ho”, is the Sino-Korean word for sky, and “Jun” means great. So, my name roughly translates as great sky.
I wanted Royal to have a middle name that had native Korean roots. Often times, words that describe things in nature are going to be native words in actual speech. So with his name and a part of my name meaning sky, it meant a lot to me that our names both share a common significance.
Pement (“like cement with a P”, as Lorelei always describes it) is her last name and a part of Royal’s middle name. It has roots in French, but the meaning is not quite certain. According to her, it may be derived from “piment”, the French word for pepper.
Í/Lee/Rhee (the North Korean pronunciation)/Yi is the second most common last name in Korea. Although there are only a few dozen Korean last names, each name belongs to one of hundreds of clans. I belong to the Pyeongchang clan on my father’s side, and the Jeonju clan via my mother’s grandmother. The royal family of the last imperial dynasty of Korea also belonged to the Jeonju clan.
Historically in the United States, the Chinese have the oldest history of immigration here from Asia. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that Koreans came here in larger waves. Since the immigration department was more familiar with names of Chinese origin, my theory is that “Yi” or “Lee” is what they assigned Koreans with my last name. In giving Royal his spelling of our last name, it was a way to reclaim the history behind it.
If we look at Royal’s full name literally, it’s royal sky pepper plum tree!
And the intention with the unorthodox nature of his name is so that he can learn and tell the stories that are woven into the fabric of his being.
So for those who are genuinely curious to know my son’s story, may they find themselves with this version of Royal:
And for the haters out there: