Many years ago, I read Khalid Hussein’s novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns. In this book, a woman gives birth to a daughter who she names Laila. In Arabic, Laila means “dark beauty.” I did not really care what it meant, but I loved the name so much I knew that I would name my daughter Laila. My future husband would have no say in this name, so my daughter’s fate was sealed solely by me and this amazing book I read when I was just 21 years old.
Lucky for me that the man whoactually ended up being my husband had no problem with my favorite name in the world. When you usually pick a name for your unborn child, you find out how many people you don’t like in the world. We tried to find a name for a boy as well but we could not agree on anything; apparently, we both had loads of problems with men in our lives.
When you pick a name, you make sure you don’t choose some famous names like Trump or something similar or worse. You don’t want to set up your child for failure. But do we ever think about what names mean in different languages? I know I did not research what Laila meant in Greek or Chinese. I really had no reason to.
Even when we moved to China three years after her birth, I had no inkling to discover the meaning of Laila until we arrived in Beijing. And this mistake hit me hard.
I am no stranger to shouting for my daughter; she simply does not listen and runs away most of the time. Now, a blond mother and daughter are a sight to behold in China and people would follow us regardless, so it took me around three months to find out what Laila means in Chinese.
Laila apparently is pronounced like lái le, the Chinese phrase that means “Come here” or “Come.” Well, that was just great news: me shouting her name just meant I was screaming in public locations! “COME HEREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!” No wonder so many people would surround us and take pictures of us, I practically invited them to join us.