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A Boy Named Precious

My little brother's name is Precious. He's starting school next month and I am scared of what other people will say about him. When he gets older I am so sure that he is going to get teased about his name. Our parents are Nigerian so our middle name and our last name are Nigerian names. Please help me help him to deal with it. Do you have any tips?

- Big Sister

You're a caring sister, and it's tough when you see a problem that your parents don't. For centuries, immigrant families like yours have grappled with names that don't fit in smoothly to American culture. The good news is that in most cases, it's getting easier -- Americans today are more open to diverse names than ever before.

I wish I could reassure you that Precious is just another part of our multicultural name tapestry...but you know better. You wrote to me for a reason. Your brother's problem isn't that his name sounds foreign. It's that his name is foreign, but just sounds silly (and feminine to boot).

For those of you thinking "silly is right," here's a little global perspective. Words with uplifting spiritual meanings are as used as names around the world. Americans are accustomed to Joy and Hope, and to Spanish names like Consuelo ("consolation") and Cruz ("cross"). In parts of Africa, names like Precious, Gracious and Rejoice are common choices. Sounds reasonable in that context, right? But here in the U.S.A., a boy called Precious may as well be Sweetpea or Honeybunch.

I assume that you've already raised this issue with your parents, if you feel you can. So what can you do as a sibling to help prepare your brother for life as a Precious? The best thing is to be honest with him. You can warn him that his name will attract attention, but also give him tips on how to respond to that attention. If he can laugh along with jokes and wear his name with pride, confidence and good humor, he may be able to find the coolness in sounding different.

For a backup plan, you can try to equip him with a nickname. If he does end up uncomfortable introducing himself as Precious, a nickname that already feels like part of him can be a useful alter ego. Going by his initials, or "Prez," or even his Nigerian middle name doesn't have to be a rejection of the name your parents lovingly gave him. It's just one more piece of a full, rich personal identity.


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September 8, 2009 3:45 AM
By deevaa (not verified)

My ex-husband is Nigerian, and we gave our son a very traditional Nigerian name. Although we mostly call him by a shortened version of his name, we find that 99% of people are comfortable using his unusual name. That other one 1% are just not sure how to pronounce it.

If your brother chooses to go by his middle name, I'm sure people will pick it up quickly.

When I first met my ex, he told me his name was Paul, and it never really gelled with me, it just didn't seem to suit him. A few weeks later I discovered his Nigerian name and that suited him perfectly, I never called him Paul again... and, as far as I know, he used his Nigerian name after that, and apart from it being occasionally pronounced wrong, he's not had any problems with it.

October 12, 2009 4:07 PM
By yakira (not verified)

just go by the nigerian name

December 23, 2009 12:18 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Prez is a cute nickname

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