What’s in a name? Young Saudis discover there’s plenty

Many want their names to carry an intriguing story and as a result are rejecting their birth names

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Saudi society is facing a new phenomenon in which many young people are changing their names to be in tune with the latest name trends, Al-Hayat newspaper reported.

Many want their names to carry an intriguing story and as a result are rejecting their birth names.

The definition of names has changed from a predetermined title in one’s life to one representing a personal choice and form of expression.

A number of Saudi women change their names as a way of celebrating their wedding or graduation.

Hadeel, a 22-year-old Saudi woman who was named Fatimah, said her birth name was too traditional and she wanted a name that was more contemporary.

“I used the name Hadeel for my social media account before I changed it officially with the Civil Status Department,” said Hadeel.

Maria, a 31-year-old Saudi woman who was named Ethar, said her mother always thought her original name to be modern but she never quite liked it.

She said: “I really wanted to change my name, so I asked my friends about the names they thought were cool. They suggested Maria and that is now my official name.”

Naifah, a Saudi woman who was originally named Nouf, said she faced great difficulty in changing her name because the Civil Status Department required the presence of her guardian and he was unavailable.

“The procedure requires a guardian to submit the name changing request with a copy of his ID to the nearest Civil Status office.

“Then the request is sent to the head office in Riyadh and the process of approval could take up to six months.”

Faris, a 27-year-old Saudi man who was named Salem, said some of his family members supported his wish to change his name and some did not.

“My parents were against the change, especially as they’re the ones who chose my birth name. “But with time they got used to my new name and so have many of my friends and acquaintances.”

Family relationships and self-development consultant Sami Al-Ansari said a name is not just a scribble on paper.

A name represents the identity of a person and encompasses the hopes and dreams of the name-givers for the newborn, he claimed.

Al-Ansari said: “A name is connected to the person’s psyche and can reflect the environment and circumstances a child was born into.

It is the first gift a parent gives his child. “Therefore, beautiful names are a symbol of happiness and acceptance.”

He added giving a child a name with negative connotations will reflect on his happiness in life and the child will grow up with what is called an “existential crisis”.

In his view, the current trend of changing names is a sign of weak personalities. “Those who are changing their names are hoping to find their inner peace in their new names.

“They are just distracting themselves from dealing with the real void. “Some change their names just for the attention and this also means they haven’t found their inner stability yet.”

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Feb. 7, 2015.

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