What's in a name? 31 letters and a nod to Samoan roots
Tautailousamailoaloufa’asinomaga Phelps was born April 25 at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia.
"I just call him boy," quipped his dad, Jonathon Phelps.
The kid with the 31-letter first name is the first for Phelps and mom Lata Pitolau.
The couple met in the army 10 years ago.
Pitolau is Samoan, Phelps is white.
In Samoan culture, naming a couple's first child is the father's responsibility, Phelps said.
"Respecting and liking their culture and heritage, I wanted something unique to Samoan culture," he said.
He got his wish.
Pitolau's mother and sister helped her come up with the name that doesn't exist even in a Google search.
The little guy's name is pronounced Tau-TAI-low-SĀ-ma-eeloh-ah-low-fah-ah-si-noh-mah-gah, according to his mother.
Long names are not unusual for Samoans. Pitolau was given a long moniker at birth. She subsequently shortened it to Lata.
That's an option Tautailousamailoaloufa’asinomaga will have when he gets older, his parents said.
The first part of his name — Tautailousa — refers to being the helmsman of one's own life.
"When he grows up he can chose the same like I did and say, 'I want my name to just be Tautai'," Pitolau said. "That's part of being the navigator of his own life."
The second part of the boy's name — mailoaloufa'asinomaga — refers to knowing where one comes from.
"Knowing your heritage, knowing your family, knowing where you belong," Pitolua said.
Pitolau and Phelps are keenly aware they're bucking the trend of Liams, Olivias, Noahs and other short names. It's a philosophy they hope to instill in Tautailousamailoaloufa’asinomaga.
"Instead of parents always telling their kids what they should be, we want him to chose what he wants to be," his mother said. "And no matter what he chooses in life he'll always know where he comes from."
Pitolua was born in American Samoa, a U.S. territory. Her parents are from the Independent State of Samoa.
There are advantages and disadvantages to a long name, Pitolau said.
"My son's name is unique," she said. "Nobody else will name their child that. That name is his name."
But there is the occasional hand fatigue.
"In the hospital, when we had to fill out a lot of forms ... wow ... I had to write his whole name on everything," she said.
She'll be using Tautai whenever she can on paperwork, although Tautailousamailoaloufa’asinomaga is the boy's legal name and on his birth certificate.
Both parents are out of the army. They haven't decided yet if more kids are in their future.
"This is a handful," said Phelps, who spent eight years on active duty with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. "We're first time parents and ... oh my gosh."