Baby name battle: Owen vs. Oen

A reader named Tyler got in touch recently to ask me about using Oen as an alternative to the very trendy Owen.

Here are Tyler’s questions:

I was browsing your site and came across the name Oen, which I thought seemed like a unique way to spell Owen and I really liked it. I spoke about the name to some friends and was told by a dutch friend of mine that in dutch, Oen apparently means (and I kid you not, unfortunately) something along the lines of a castrated donkey, and is slang for moron and idiot, among other things.

I was just wondering what you thought the likelihood would be of an Oen being made fun of or potentially not being hired for jobs because of the translation? Do you know if there are a lot of names that mean something not-so-great after translation?

My heart sank when my friend told me, I really liked Oen.

According to Wiktionary, the Dutch word oen does indeed mean “castrated donkey” or “nincompoop, moron, dumb person.”

It doesn’t sound like Owen, though. Oen is a single-syllable word with a vowel sound that’s something like the oo of “took.”

Here are my thoughts on the name Oen:

Employment: Names that signal race/class can be problematic during a job hunt, but Oen doesn’t do this. It just happens to have an undesirable meaning in a non-English language. I doubt this would make it a barrier to employment.

Teasing: I think someone named Oen is more likely to be teased about the spelling of his name than an obscure translation. Names with more conspicuous negative associations like Mangina, Dudu, Phuc, Bich, Randy and Fanny are much riskier than Oen in this respect.

Spelling: Tyler didn’t mention spelling, but I think it’s an important issue. The name Oen will always have to be explained to people. “Owen without the w” is pretty simple as far as spelling explanations go, but saying it over and over again for an entire lifetime? Hm.

So that’s my take on Oen. I don’t think the Dutch translation is a big deal, but I do think the spelling could be.

Which version do you prefer, Owen or Oen? Why?

[Update: The poll is closed now. The final tally was: 48 votes for Owen, 22 votes for Oen.]

7 thoughts on “Baby name battle: Owen vs. Oen

  1. Frankly, Oen just seems like an accidental misspelling of Owen, so it would be immediately off the table for me. I know of enough people who have actually had their name misspelled (accidentally) on birth certificates that I would never do it “intentionally” (even if it made his nametag extra special. It’s not worth the lifelong hassle.)

    Just my two cents.

  2. Your Dutch friend was perfectly right: if you say “Oen” [Oon] to someone you mean something along the lines of “hey, stupid!” And Kristy’s right: being so named in English would be a hassle. Don’t do that to your kid.

  3. The problem is Tyler knows that Oen means nincompoop and that has to have changed his view on the name.

    I wanted to give my son the middle name Edwin, after my grandpa, until my MIL pointed out his initials would then be PES… and that pes is dog or scoundrel in Czech. While I don’t know that many Czech speakers and it’s pretty unlikely they’d ever care about his initials… all the same I knew and that’s why I couldn’t use that name.

  4. My son is named Oen and it really isn’t bad. He does have a bit of trouble with people always putting the w in his name but we know it’s not the newer spelling but very old so not as well known. He’s ok with it and a sweetheart. Sad that in Dutch his name would be a problem but life is weird and so we can’t foresee everything and perhaps it will never be a problem for him. By the way he’s almost 12 now.

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