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Are These Names Alive With the Sound of Music?

My fiancé and I are heading to India in two months to pick up our newly adopted daughter, and we still aren't sure what to name her! We both adore the name Birgitta and think it fits her perfectly. The only problem is our other daughter, who we adopted from Russia, is named Liesl…and both names happen to be two of the von Trapp girls in The Sound of Music! (Neither of us had ever seen the musical and had no idea they shared this connection.) To make matters worse, the other names we like Gretl and Marta.

We're both scared of the backlash our children might receive growing up just for having two Da's, let alone having two Da's who named them after a musical on top of it. What do you think we should do?

- Two Concerned Fathers

As Carrie Underwood's recent live tv version showed, The Sound of Music remains one of the world's "Favorite Things." But it's clearly not one of yours, at least where baby names are concerned. You've stumbled unknowingly into a theme; will it claim control of your daughters' names?

Let's start with the names themselves. All of the names you're considering are uncommon in English today. Strongly Germanic names have not been popular in the English-speaking world since around World War I. This means that most people's primary association with the names you are considering is—as you've guessed—The Sound of Music.

That's not necessarily a problem. After all, The Sound of Music is likeable. There's a reason 18 million people tuned in to the live broadcast!  A classic film is a positive association, without the passing-trend risk of, say, Twilight vampires. Sure, certain name pairings might cross the line into cutesiness. Sisters named Liesl and Maria, for instance, fairly beg for a chorus of "Sixteen Going on Seventeen." Even Liesl and Gretl might give me pause. But Birgitta and Marta don't say "von Trapp" as loudly, even when matched with Liesl. (How many people can name all the singing siblings?) A nickname like Gita, which is also an Indian name, would soften the association even further.

You've also expressed another, deeper worry about the Sound of Music connection. Does a link to Broadway musicals highlight the fact that your kids are being raised by a male couple? Could it compound any disapproval or discrimination they'll face?

I understand your concern, but my guess is that the musical theater connection won't add significantly to the backlash you're worried about. Anyone who's determined to take out their prejudices on your kids won't need a Broadway excuse, while more open minds are hardly likely to close down because of a pair of cute girls' names. In fact, nostalgia for the musical might turn out to be a positive factor when people meet your daughters. It's a point of connection with good, warm feelings attached.

If you ever feel inclined to defend your name choices, you have the best explanation of all at hand: you picked the names you loved. I hope you do just that.


Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

March 18, 2014 11:54 AM
By Jenny Also (not verified)

I think the suggestion of Gita is perfect! It softens the surprise of meeting an Asian child/woman with a very Germanic name. It honors her parents' tastes as well as the heritage of her birth.

March 18, 2014 12:15 PM
By Chrispy (not verified)

Being a big Sound of Music fan, I would admittedly guess a Sound of Music connection with siblings named Liesl and Birgitta or Liesl and Gretl although not quite as much with Liesl and Marta because Marta seems to fit in a little more with the popular names right now. I would be more likely to guess that connection when the child's ethnic heritage doesn't match the name's ethnic heritage. I would assume this connection no matter who the parents are. I do like the names. I guess it comes down to whether you mind (or think your daughters will mind) people asking or assuming periodically.

March 18, 2014 12:43 PM
By Keith G (not verified)

I say go with the names. I saw TSoM a long time ago as a kid, and saw a local theater production of it about 10 years ago, and the only name I remember from it is Maria.

Don't worry about it. You picked the names independently of the movie, you like them, and that should be all there is to it.

March 18, 2014 12:51 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I agree with the Name Lady! I remembered Leisl, but none of the others. I'd just assume that one or both of the girls' parents were German or of German descent -- and the two daddies thing wouldn't make a difference at all. From a pairing perspective, I like Marta or Birgitta with Leisl. Gretl is a little matchy.

March 18, 2014 1:12 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

How about Sangeeta? It's an Indian name meaning music. Easily shortened to Gita. Congratulations!

March 18, 2014 3:20 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Both names are beautiful; the heck with the movie connection.
Also, in the movie, it was B-R-I-gitta, not B-I-R-gitta. So not the same.

March 18, 2014 7:35 PM
By annonymous (not verified)

I know of an adult adoptee who is black and was raised by white parents who named her Gretchen. She has written very candidly about growing up as a black child in a predominantly white community. As an adult, she finds her German name very incongruous, as do others, with who she is now -- a black woman.

Birgitta is a lovely name, but not one that is much used in this country. It comes across as a northern European name and somewhat foreign. I would suggest that these parents give their Indian daughter a name from *her* birth country and culture or a more ordinary American name.

March 18, 2014 8:29 PM
By Kelly (not verified)

Definitely not a drawback for this Sound of Music fan! I think they're lovely names, with or without the connection.

Congratulations on your new daughter - so happy for you! :)

March 21, 2014 2:40 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Are you or your partner of German heritage? My husband is German & while these names might scream Sound of Music to a lot of Americans, to Germans they just read as names. Perhaps you could have an explanation ready that you wanted names that would connect the children to their adopted families. If one or both of you have German heritage, German names would be a reasonable way to accomplish this.

The nickname Gita is also inspired and I think it could work well as a full name, if you wanted to go that route. If you decide against Brigitta/Gita, I really like Marta.

March 24, 2014 9:45 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Do you like Annika or Anika? It's also Germanic, so fits with Liesl, but I think it is a legitimate name in some Indian languages as well.

March 24, 2014 6:58 PM
By AngelaAiea (not verified)

I was just about to say the same thing! Brigitta, not Birgitta. Not the same name.

March 27, 2014 11:16 AM
By Kat (not verified)

I vote for Gita (also spelled Geeta). It is Indian for song which would match your "musical" theme but would honor her ethnicity and not sound too matchy with Leisl. FYI I am a fan of the Sound of Music and can name ALL of their names off the top of my head! Also I used to work for an Indian woman named Geeta and she was a very intelligent, beautiful and kind person.

April 6, 2014 7:17 PM
By vanessa (not verified)

agree that I would go with something that honors her ethnicity.

April 9, 2014 2:00 AM
By Elizabeth (not verified)

If my parents had named my siblings and I Liesl, Brigitta, Marta, and Gretl, I would have given them a high five for giving us seriously awesome names. I'm a huge fan of the original Sound of Music (with Julie Andrews, not Carrie Underwood). My bias aside, I think that they're beautiful, traditional names, and very few people other than I could name all Von Trapp Children, so you really have nothing to worry about.

April 15, 2014 6:13 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I'm a huge Sound of Music fan, as are many other people, I suspect. I can easily name all of the children, and any combination of those names in one family would set off SoM alarm bells!
I very much agree with previous posters that it would be more fair to give your girls names that are more in line with their own cultures, rather than outdated Germanic names (although i agree with you that those names are fabulous and would be right on trend for a baby nowadays). Not for an Indian baby, though. Sorry.

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