The LA Times published an interesting article on Brazilian baby names several years ago (1999). Here are some highlights:
Brazilian parents who like creative spellings tend to gravitate toward the letters K, W and Y because — at the time the article was written — these letters were not technically part of Brazilian Portuguese.
[In 2009, Brazil enacted spelling reforms that officially added K, W and Y to the alphabet. I’m not sure if this has made them any less desirable for baby names.]
Examples of creative spellings: Tayane (Diana), Kerolyne (Carolina).
Sometimes, parents choose names inspired by Jogo do Bicho (“the animal game” or “the animal lottery”). This is “a kind of urban numbers game based on superstitions that imbue animals and dates with good luck.”
Example of an animal lottery name: Antonio Treze de Junio de Mil Novecentos e Dezesette (June 13, 1917).
There are distinct class differences when it comes to naming:
- In Rio’s favelas (slums), “Edson, Robson, Anderson and Washington are favorite first names […] partly because of the percussive “on” sound and partly because American-sounding names are seen as cool and classy.”
- Many lower-middle-class parents go for more elaborate names. The Rio registrar explaining these class differences said that, “[b]y seeking status, some cross the line into silliness.” He gave examples like Siddartha, Michael Jackson, Concetta Trombetta Diletta and Marafona (synonym for prostitute).
- Many wealthy and upwardly mobile parents stick to simple, classic names.
“Brazilian law forbids names that could expose children to ridicule,” but the law is rarely enforced. For instance, the following made it through…
- Antonio Morrendo das Dores (Dying of Pain)
- Barrigudinha (Little-Bellied Girl)
- Ben Hur
- Colapso Cardiaco (Cardiac Collapse)
- Flavio Cavalcanti Rei da Televisao (King of Television)
- Onurb (flip of surname, Bruno)
- Onurd (brother of Onurb, above)
- Saddam Hussein
- Tchaikovsky Johannsen Adler Pryce Jackman Faier Ludwin Zolman Hunter Lins (goes by “Tchai”)
- Welfare (He said he was named after his father. “My grandfather’s name was Moacir, which in the Tupi Guarani indigenous language means Bad Omen. So he named my father Welfare, because it meant well-being, which was the opposite. And there was a famous English soccer player in Sao Paulo named Harry Welfare.”)
Do you know anyone from Brazil with an interesting name or name story?