Ciara Kenny

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The complexities of naming Irish babies in Poland

We chose a common Irish name for our Irish-Polish daughter, but the authorities almost rejected it as they said it sounds like a squealing cat, writes Damien Moran

Wed, Jan 16, 2013, 12:31


We chose a common Irish name for our Irish-Polish daughter, but the authorities almost rejected it as they said it sounds like a squealing cat, writes Damien Moran

Damien with his new baby daughter Emma

I have one simple New Years Resolution for 2013. To learn my kids’ 11 names.

What sort of Irishman born in 1980 has 11 children you may ask? But I don’t have one short of a dozen, just two daughters with eleven first names between them.

A future with a soccer-sized list of names to remember may have proved an aversion in the Tatra mountains near Krakow on New Years Eve ten years ago, when Dorota and I first snogged.

That snog led to Mia, our oldest – a name popular in Ireland, but largely unheard of in Poland, apart from being a video game acronym (MIA – Missing in Action). Like her two week old sister, Emma, she has no middle name(s), unlike their Damien Brian Anthony daddy.

The thing is, Polish grammar has seven different grammatical cases. Beckoning for Mia and Emma to come in for lunch, I should say: ‘Mio/Emmo!’ If their best friend rings but they’re out galavanting, I’ll have to reply: ‘Mii/Emmy aren’t in.’

I’ll head for a walk with ‘Mią /Emmą’ (pronounced ‘Meeouwh/Emmouwh’) but I’m feeding ‘Mię/Emmę’ (pron. Meeouh/Emmouh), and finally, I’ll give ‘Mii/Emmie’ (pron. Mee/Emm-ee-eh) something to eat.

Although I speak English to them most of the time, sometimes the eleven name-guessing game is inevitable.

A week after her birth, I registered Mia with the council in order to get her ID (mandatory in Poland) and pave the path to her one-off ‘becikowe’ payment from the council of 1000 zł (€250). The bespectacled middle-aged administrator met my request with a frown, storming off for a consultation with her boss. Mia wasn’t on the list of names with an imprimatur.

Damien and Mia in Poznan during the Euro 2012 championships

The only reason we were allowed to register it in the end was due to the fact I am Irish. If a Polish-Polish couple attempted they would have been turned down. An oversight body, a Orwellian-cum- Monty Pythonesque ‘Ministry of Names’ rules with an iron fist whether potential baby names are likely to cause grievance, such as bullying, for the child in the future. Mia is pronounced a bit like Meeow, they said. She’ll be teased as if she’s a cat, they said.

Marketing trend gurus would have us believe that 2013 and the near future will see us lurk ever deeper into the past, ever further from our own borders. claims the chief trends for the coming year will draw from Roman gods and names from the wild, crossing new borders while seeking fame by association. Perhaps Irish Fifty Shades fans will call their kids Ted and Phoebe in honour of conception night?

Darren, Nidge, Siobhain and Trish have become household names, only time will tell whether parents want their child named after the Irish Sopranos. An RIP Darren page popped up after the season finale recently and now boasts 22,000 likes.

More manly, sword-swaggling, warrior-ish names for boys, picked up from the popular series Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games (according to, may find their way onto the CSO top 100.

Meet Augustus McGee (GB Shaw would be pleased given his ‘Augustus does his bit’), Atticus Hough, Persephone O’Toole, Athena Clancy, Juno O’Brien, Julius McDonagh and Thor Hayes – your son or daughter’s new school mate in 2020.

With Katie Taylor’s gold medal and woman of the year title, in addition to Kate Middleton’s pregnancy, we may see a rise in the K’s this year too.

Perhaps the 100th anniversary of the Dublin Lockout will play it’s part and James / Big Jim will take pole position from Jack. And let’s not forget talent shows’ unrivalled influence on trends.

County men and women who hail from All-Ireland victorious areas may be heavily influenced by their sporting heroes, with Henrys or Brians littering the maternity wards of expectant Kilkenny parents in far flung corners of the globe.

Maybe Ozzie and Canadian curates will be summoned to cleanse the Augustinian original sin from dozens of Pauls and Michaels, in their Donegal parents’ hope for legendary goalies and goalscorers.

Damien Moran is a freelance writer living in Warsaw, and author of The Irish Fan’s Guide to Euro 2012. He blogs at Peacenikhurler.