Famous Name: Neko

Neko Case
Origin: Japanese
Gender: Unisex
Meaning: "Cat"
Pronunciation: NEE-ko, NEH-ko
Other forms: N/A

I kinda totally forgot about this series (oops!) but I remember that writing the first post, about the name Idina, was one of my favorites I've ever done.
This was the second one I had planned, a guilty pleasure of mine. Neko simply means "cat" in Japanese, and brings to mind two things: Maneki-neko, the lucky cat with one paw up that is featured in everything from figurines to key-chains to ornaments to even a tea infuser; the second is Virginia born singer Neko Case (and yes, that's her real name). Her parents were of Ukrainian descent, and unfortunately I've not been able to find any information on how or why her name was chosen.

Neko Case is not big enough to be an immediate thought whenever I hear the name, in truth I think of the Maneki-neko before anything else, and I think that's a charming association.
The earliest records of Maneki-neko date all the way back to 1852, but its exact origins are shrouded in mystery. Some folktales mention if a cat raises its foot to wash it's face, a visitor will soon come; others say it indicates rain.
Another more elaborate story tells that a poor shopkeeper took in a starving cat, though he barely has enough food for himself. As thanks, the cat sits in front of the shop and beckons customers inside.

I also think there is another huge consideration to make before using this name - cultural appropriation.

I'm personally not comfortable using a name from a culture radically different than my own. I'm German and Dutch for sure, Scottish and Choctaw - maybe - but I am certainly not Japanese. I think it's something to really truly discuss and think about, because as I see it, a name like Neko just doesn't belong to me, and I wouldn't want to use it, not even as a middle name.

It's a conversation that runs much deeper than just this post, and while I've thought of making a separate post to really delve into the issue, I'm afraid I wouldn't do it the justice it deserves. So instead head over to this post if you would like to learn more about the subject.

In the end it comes down to this: how much is a name worth to you?

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