What’s in a name?
When picking names for their children, the sky’s the limit for Chuukese parents
And Chuukese parents are likely to christen their child “The Sky’s The Limit.”
While traditional parents still prefer common names, choosing non-conventional monikers is becoming a common practice among Chuukese families. Whatever Chuukese parents see— or fancy— is likely to become their baby’s first name.
Some of the more popular ones are taken from celebrities or movies such as “Rambo,” “Jet Li,” “Jackie Chan,” “Jordan” and “Shaq.”
Rambo, of course, is from American blockbuster franchise based on David Morrell’s 1972 novel “First Blood,” starring Hollywood superstar Sylvester Stallone. Jet Li and Jackie Chan are both martial arts superstars, while Jordan and Shaq are NBA Hall of Famers.
A similar practice is quite common in New Zealand, but the government prohibits such names as “Lucifer” and “Talula Does the Hula” among others.
Neither the Federated States of Micronesia nor the Chuuk state government has any known policy the places similar restrictions on naming a child. Parents do as they please, that’s why Chuukese children have some of the most unique, if not funny or even vulgar, names ever.
Other examples of nicknames that would probably stop you dead in your tracks or put a wide mischievous grin on your face are as follows: Alien, Bacardi, Backpack, Coca-Cola, Commando, Condom, Defense, FBI Warning, Fiber, Firsthand, I Come In Peace, Lover, Motrin, Robot, Sunday, Vodka, Window and Workshop among others.
Such names are not limited to English. Some parents choose Japanese names like Ichiban, Okasi (candy) and Kimichi (Chuukese version of Kimchee).
Chuukese names in the vernacular are even funnier and more vulgar. When it comes to nicknames, sometimes parents attach labels onto their own children, based on either a one-time incident or a habit.
But for the most part, nicknames usually come from peers or buddies at an age when experimentation is more than likely, especially in situations where bad is good and
good is bad.
Pakun (cigarette butt) and Bacardi could be some of the many examples that reflect the person’s bad habits or vices. Names like Nieoch (“She of Devastating Beauty”) and Apwete (“She of Graceful Beauty”) may be self-explanatory.
No one could say for certain how this trend began. Some speculate that some cultural attitudes from the past could shed light on the current practice for the most populated island in the Federated States of Micronesia.
In the past, Chuukese children were named after navigational animals, awesome feats during war or peacetime. Or even after medicinal miracles. Other times, they were named for their fantastic characters.
“Just from my own observation from among Chuukese, many parents name their children names that mean something. Maybe an important person in the family, so they figure the name will continue the presence in their family. Or an event that coincides with the time when the child was born,” Cholymay1 wrote on MicSem website. “One good example is my brother Champion from (the island of) Piisemwar. People call him Champi. He was born when the island of Tonoas won the (track and field) championship one time on the main island of Weno.”
Some U.S. presidents such as Lyndon Johnson and John F. Kennedy
became important to islanders, too. As a result, “Lyndon” and “Kennedy” have become popular Chuukese names.
So, when you come across Chuukese named “2-Love,” “2-Late,” “Grow-up” or “Show-up,” just remember they were not exactly random names.
If you chatted with “Telephone,” were confronted by “Vodka,” or got stiffed by “Condom,” it’s possible that their names ― probably the work of their peers, or handpicked by their parents ―reveal an interesting anecdote. Sometimes, it can be self-fulfilling.