What is in a name?
I received the following email last night. I was compelled to respond to it immediately.
Hi Nirmal, I found your website via the Google search engine. My husband and I named our daughter (she's about to be one year old) Nirmala. We call her Nirmal for short. I had a friend in college with that name and we have always thought it was very beautiful. We live in the USA and my mother-in-law lives in a predominantly white/Anglo town. My mother-in-law refuses to use Nirmal's name. She calls her "The Baby" and says that Nirmal will run away from us becuase [sic] of her name and that kids in school will be mean to her. We love her name. I believe the world is bigger than her small town / and her small mind. Do you know many Nirmalas? Do you think it's very bad that we call her Nirmal? Does that sound bad to you? Perhaps we do not pronounce it like you may - we pronounce it like it is spelled in English. Do you think kids these days are that closed minded?
To be honest this is the oddest email I have ever received as a result of my website. That being said I would like to answer all of your questions as best as I can. Also, would it be ok if I posted this conversation on my website? I would not post your names or email address.
> My husband and I named our daughter (she's about to be
> one year old) Nirmala. We call her Nirmal for short.
> I had a friend in college with that name and we have
> always thought it was very beautiful.
A little clarification Nirmala and Nirmal are two distinct names. Nirmala is a girl's name and Nirmal is the corresponding boy's name. I personally don't see a problem with you calling your daughter Nirmal, nicknames are nicknames. Nirmal is also a word and not just a name. You may already know this but it is composed of two parts "nir" which roughly translates to "without" and "mal" which roughly translates to "bad" and the combined form means something closer to the English phrase "pure of heart/mind".
> We live in the USA and my mother-in-law
> lives in a predominantly white/Anglo town. My mother-in-law
> refuses to use Nirmal's name. She calls her "The Baby"
> and says that Nirmal will run away from us because of her
> name and that kids in school will be mean to her.
I will not attempt to pass judgement on the actions of your mother-in-law as that is not my place. As far as kids in school, I did have some problems growing up, however I was always told to not waste my mind by thinking about immature people so I developed a pretty thick skin.
> Do you know many Nirmalas?
I actually don't know any Nirmala's. However, I know two guys named Nirmal. We never really discussed the impacts of our names on our lives so I do not have anything else to say on that matter.
> Do you think it's very bad that we call her Nirmal?
> Does that sound bad to you?
Like I said, you may want to consider that the name Nirmal is a masculine name. However, that does not stop people from using "Sam" as a short form for Samantha even though Sam would be perceived as masculine.
> Perhaps we do not pronounce it like you may - we
> pronounce it like it is spelled in English.
Most of my American friends also do not pronounce it in the original pronunciation. In fact, I do not bother correcting because it detracts from whatever introduction is being made. Most people pronounce it "nermull", while the original pronunciation is closer to "neer-mull". If you have a computer running OS X try typing "say nermull" and "say neermull" in a Terminal to hear the difference. It's not perfect but it is close. Also, if you are a fan of Garfield the "nermull" pronunciation is the same as the pronunciation of Garfield's cousin Nermal.
> Do you think kids these days are that closed minded?
Kids are not kids forever, and, in my opinion, those who stay kids are not worth your, or your daughter's, time.