For Christmas, one of my students gave me a calendar and, I have to say, it really is the gift that keeps on giving. Not only do I now know what day it is most of the time, I am also aware of the name days that are being celebrated on any given day. After three and a half years here, I thought I had encountered most Latvian names, but I’m delighted to see that this is not the case.
In January and February alone, a plethora of names have caught my eye – and tickled my funny bone. For example, Spodris, Spulga, Tenis, Donats and Justs.
As the temperature today was -13 with a ‘comfort’ level of -19 (comfort, my arse), I decided to entertain myself by delving deeper into the world of Latvian names. I was amused to see that ‘Smaida’, which means ‘smile’, is a name. According to my research, there are 307 ‘Smaidas’ in Latvia. Having never met a ‘Smaida’ in person, I was wondering if they live up to the name. A quick message to a couple of Latvian friends revealed that one girl does indeed know a Smaida.
Me: Is she smiley?
Spodra: Nah, she’s a miserable bitch.
But if you think it stops there, prepare yourself. ‘Gonoreja’ is a name in Latvian. And yes, it means exactly what you think it does. I’m not sure what parent would curse their child with the name ‘Gonoreja’, or the effect that it would have on one’s future…
“Good afternoon. Gonoreja speaking. How many I help you?”
“Hi, my name is Gonoreja and I’ll be your waitress this evening…”
It would be a rather unlucky British stag night that came to Riga and bumped into Gonoreja and her buddies, Sifilis* and Klamidija* sitting at a bar.
It normally costs 50 lats (or around €70) to change your name in Latvia but unsurprisingly, Gonoreja is on the list of names that they will allow you to change for free.
My research also reveals that there are 9 Stalinas living in Latvia – it’s a girl’s name. Once I’d picked my jaw up off the floor, I got to thinking about how being called Stalina might actually be kind of cool. Picture the following playground scene, if you will.
Stalina: Get off the swing. It’s my turn.
Jānis: Who’s going to make me?
Stalina: I am.
Jānis: Ha, ha, ha! You and whose army?
Stalina: (Latvian Girl Death Stare)
Jānis: Oh, er, right. Here you go. Sorry about that Stalina, won’t happen again…
The name Indeguna also exists, however, if I may, I would like to make a small adjustment to this one and shorten it to just ‘Inde’, which means poison. I feel that more Latvian women should be called ‘Inde’. Think about it – if you marry a woman called ‘Laimdota’ (gift of happiness), you’re really just setting yourself up for a fall, aren’t you?
However, if you married a woman called ‘Inde’, well, then you’d have a much better idea of what was coming. It would be like the Ronseal of Latvian girls’ names.
In Latvia, you also need to be careful about the first name-surname combination when naming your child. While I can’t imagine what surname would go with Prezidents or Afrikants, here are some other possible catastrophes you could saddle your little bundle of joy with: Alnis Zaķis (Moose Bunny), Kaija Putniņa (Seagull Bird), Jautrīte Skumjā (Cheerful Sad – a bi-polar disorder waiting to happen, surely) and wait for it, Kails Gailis (Naked Cock). I suppose, if you wanted to be really mean, you could call your kid Spodrs Gailis (Clean Cock) and then, just for the laugh, try to introduce him to a girl called Gonoreja…
However, my absolute favourite is Maiga Vāvere or Gentle/Soft Squirrel. It’s made all the funnier by the fact that Vāvere also means, um, ‘lady parts’ in Latvian.
In fact, I think I might change my name…
Changing your name to Inde Vāvere? €70.
The look on people’s faces when you tell them your name is ‘Poison Vagina’? Priceless.
(*These may not actually be names, but anything is possible I suppose.)