Image 1 of 14: Rasmiyeh & Nazmiyeh: Propa classy, these names might invite a snicker at the pomp & ceremony they conjure. Literally ‘official’ & ‘orderly’, respectively, this pair of classics are often given to sisters by parents bent on breeding proper ladies. Collectively they sound more Ottoman rule & rigmarole than light n ladylike or dainty daughter.
Image 1 of 14: Badrieh: A flattering, fit label for a beauty, the name conjures the lunar orb and is the female designation for full moon. At first glance, Badrieh might evoke ‘Twilight’, but in Arab culture, the moon is used to ascribe beauty to a woman’s face, though moon-face in English may sound like a slur or dig at one’s round face or chubby cheeks!
Image 1 of 14: Lutfiyeh: A heavy cross to bear, this name pertains to divine protection. Many little Lutifyehs get invited to sports games as a source of some added ‘blessing’. However, when their mates want to go to a Bieber concert or sneak into a PG-13 movie, all these young guilt inducing ‘angels’ are left out of the Facebook invites.
Image 1 of 14: 'Aaskarieh: This gal won't be 'sugar and spice n all things nice' with this stern name! We've got to applaud branding a daughter ‘military personnel’ in Arab patriarchy central, and sponsoring her sexual role-play into adulthood (IDF eat your heart out!). With this moniker, the girl's destiny is as a traffic cop or laid off Gaddafi bodyguard.
Image 1 of 14: Fal'ha: Not to be confused with peasant (falaha) or success (faalha), Fal'ha is all about that subtle line in your lower lip like the one most discernible in Angelina’s lips. Your grandma might not like the association with Jolie, but your grandpa surely will!
Image 1 of 14: Thaljeh -- Meaning cold or literally ice or snow-flake. Cold name, warm heart? Most girls in America named ‘Ice’ are either strippers or roller derby captains. In the Arab context, these little frigid-heiresses are going to have to fight being associated with that cold shoulder no one wants to mess with.
Image 1 of 14: Labeebeh -- smarty pants! In Arab dialects, labeebeh might easily get taken for the inner flesh of a courgette, but labeebeh is meant to evoke wisdom, so perhaps it is a name better reserved for the old. Quite the counter intuitive name for children- “No little Labeebeh, we don’t eat glue! Labeebeh, no, we don’t sniff it either!! Labeebeh!"
Image 1 of 14: Tuffaa'heh -- ‘Apple.’ We all thought Gwyneth Paltrow broke the outlandish naming record when she named her daughter Apple, but here’s one more thing Arabs beat the West with -- naming their children after fruits, and generations ago! Let’s not forget the fruity Moza (Banana).
Image 1 of 14: Wad'ha - clear as daylight or the crack of dawn: Let’s leave images of a sunrise to novels and pancake commercials. Labeling your little girl ‘Morning Sunrise’ might raise the ire of all the non-morning people as she innocently skips into the room. “Hey! Crack a’dawn! Come back in 2 hours and bring some coffee, would ya!”
Image 1 of 14: Khadra-- literally green or fresh. By rights a name for the greengrocer, if you’re low on your 5 greens a day in fruit n veg and want to ensure that your baby girl isn’t, this one’s a winner. In other senses, “khadra” can be used to connote fertility, or even pervertedness in an old man who likes ‘tender young girls’.
Image 1 of 14: Zaleekha: Unlike the slow shuffles with which our grandma walks, this 'teta' name means speed walking. It also connotes ‘flesh and fat’ which presumably should be zapped in no time by the fast-walking! Flash-granny! Nanas are not known to zip around quickly. But, try to steal a cookie-- ol’ Zaleekha will smack you silly n no seconds flat!
Image 1 of 14: Isa'aaf: You may feel momentarily ‘alarmed’ when this name’s called out, since it literally means ‘ambulance sirens.’ But if you want to keep your grandma’s memory alive then perhaps you could turn your mobile ringtone into the sound of wailing sirens!
Image 1 of 14: 'Aawaasif -- Literally storms. The last thing the Arab world needs is more storms. Put this name to bed and start naming your girls "Peace Treaty” or “Resolved Tribal Feuding". The Arabic translations of these will sound much smoother than the English. It always does.
Image 1 of 14: Thaqeba - Drilling holes. While this nomenclature may help a girl become the 1st oil rig operator in Saudi, images of a drill penetrating hard earth lose something of the grace & softness a girl's name usually carries. Heck, if you’re going to go with Thaqeba, you might as well tack on ‘Exxon’ to boost her chances of landing the pipeline gig.
In English, it’s names like Mavis, Gertrude, Esther, Mildred, Phyllis, Agnes or Winnifred that we associate with the older fuddy duddy generations of bifocal spectacles and zimmer frames. Arabic is no exception in naming fashion and lends its own idiosyncratic counterparts to this trend. There are a distinct set of names, once popular, that evoke a whince, a grimace or even a sigh of relief from the teenagers of today that they dodged the naming bullet. These classic Granny names are being consigned to the ‘old school’ and the preserve of the senior citizens.
Arabic has its share of clunky or harsh-sounding heavy-handed names for the ladies. These are the Teta names -- great aunt or grandmothers’ names that have elicited a chuckle or gasp of horror and left us thanking our lucky stars or parents that these mortifying monikers are a dying breed. Sometimes their meanings are even more laugh-out-loud than how they sound -- which can be quite an earful.
Even though your own grandma’s name undoubtedly brings back warm gooey associations brimming with tireless tenderness, home-cooked food, and fierce smacker kisses and some cheek pinching, her name may not be as adorable as she is. As much as we all love our grandmas and their outpouring of affection, taking their name for posterity might not be our preferred way to immortalize their legacy.
It’s harder to dodge that name bullet as an Arab saddled with the sacred duty to keep the elders of the family alive in the names of their grandchildren. For the men of the family, there is a strict naming tradition -- the elder son must name his firstborn son after his father. For the women who inherit their Teta’s title, it’s less law more habit born out of fondness, and quite commonplace.
Although the retro Western name is making a comeback, (welcome Audrey and Dorris) we doubt the same will be said of some of these Arabic classics. While our great grandparents’ monikers are still being resurrected beyond the granite head tombstone, the editors at Al Bawaba would prefer to avoid these staid names and never promote their comeback.
So let the name nightmare begin-- we love you teta, just not your name! Here are 14 Grandma names that you're mortified you've been given or glad you've dodged. Delve into our cross section of Teta tags, some more obscure than others, others so overbearing they should be obsolete and certainly stay off the birth certificate! Remember parents, if tempted by any of these classics, beware of the playground bullies or of sentencing your little lady to singledom, or worse still surrendering her to those boys who want to marry their mammas.
However appalling the appellations, the overwhelming association with our own Granny names is one of endearment and highest esteem, so keeping the name-bashing in good spirit, take your chortle with a pinch of reverence!
Got any others we've missed out? Your own great grandmas' loveable gems perhaps? Do tell in the comment space below!