I’ve followed your blog for years, but having always been a name nerd myself I never really thought I’d need advice. Cliched, but true.
After 4.5 years of dealing with infertility, my husband and I are thrilled to be expecting a baby boy, due late January. Unfortunately, we ended up finding baby boy names challenging. So many of our friends have already had baby boys, which knocked many of my favorites (Caleb, Micah, Asher, Ezra) out of the running. Plus, my husband is quite particular about names, which eliminated some others (Milo, Jasper, Graham, Gilbert, Levi).
Fortunately, we found one name which we both not only agreed on, but loved–and are planning to name our little one Dashiell Alexander N. (Last name is Greek, 4 syllables, and appears in the Bible and the Rats of NIMH). It’s a bit of a mouthful, but it’s strong and striking, we think Dashiell would be a fine name for a judge or doctor, and we LOVE the nickname Dash. The name seems like a perfect combination of grown-up sophistication and a super-fun nickname that he can use if he wishes.
All was well, until yesterday, when we were driving to work and heard John Kerry on NPR, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS. Which, unbeknownst to us, is DAESH. And sounds just like Dash.
So. We LOVE the name. And DAESH doesn’t currently seem to be in super common usage–most people say ISIS or ISIL–and it’s spelled differently, of course. But would we be dooming our child to being associated with an awful terrorist group if we call him Dash?
Thanks in advance for any help you’re able to provide. We’ll be heartbroken if we have to go back to the drawing board, but I’d hate to inadvertently saddle our little guy with a name that has truly terrible associations. We haven’t shared the name with anyone in real life–and would prefer not to until he arrives–so an outside opinion would be very valuable.
I wish fervently that I could figure out how to get polls to work again, because I feel a poll would set your mind at ease. I am going to say back to you the things you already know and have just finished saying to me:
1. The child would live in a country that uses the term ISIS, not DAESH.
2. Dash would be only his nickname, and one he could stop using in a worst case scenario where our country suddenly started saying DAESH instead.
3. Dash and DAESH are spelled differently. To someone not familiar with the pronunciation of DAESH, it doesn’t look as if it were pronounced the same.
If you were expecting a girl and you were planning to name her Isis, I would indeed advise you to go back to the drawing board, no matter how much you loved the name. I would speak to you earnestly and with full sympathetic eye contact, saying I was so very sorry but that I believed this name was currently off the table. But Dashiell does not seem to me to belong in the same category. When you presented the problem, I didn’t get any little chills down my neck, or a sinking feeling in my stomach.
On the other hand, I just searched for DAESH online, and saw some articles about how ISIS is a term with unfair associations and how DAESH is a pleasingly mocking term as well as being more accurate. I can picture the United States deciding that combination is irresistible: I can imagine all the Facebook links to articles telling us we should say DAESH instead, and blog posts explaining it, and so forth. In THAT situation, where DAESH is the word we use…well, I suppose it could start to feel more like naming a girl Isis. I admit I am starting to get a slight sinking feeling in my stomach.
(I’ll be very interested to see what the name Isis does in the next couple of years. In 2014, there were 396 new baby girls given the name in the U.S., and I thought of it as a name rising with Isla and Iris. It seems very likely that usage will be significantly affected by recent events.)
I’m thinking aloud here, because I’m really not sure. ISIS/Isis is a MUCH MUCH stronger link to me than DAESH/Dashiell. But that’s because I’m familiar with the term ISIS, whereas this letter was my first exposure to the term DAESH. With time, my feelings could easily and considerably change.
I think if you decide to use Dashiell, it would be good to think ahead to the emergency exits, just in case. For example, if it were to turn out you could no longer use the nickname Dash, would that ruin the name for you, or would you still want to use the name Dashiell? In the worst case scenario, would you be okay with calling him by his middle name instead? Would it work to change the middle name to your second-choice boy name, just in case? Would you want to use Dashiell as the middle name? You could even still call him Dash.
I think if I were you I would let it simmer a bit. We’ll see what the comments section looks like, and that will give us more information to chew on (though one reason I miss the polls is that the results were often quite different than what the comments section would lead us to guess). Some of us may have information about the likeliness of the United States changing the term they use for the group. Some of us may already be familiar with the term DAESH, and can say if Dashiell now feels strange to them as a result. Some of us may have suggestions of similar names. Some of us may have empathetic stories to tell about names they lost to a current event of the time.