Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What's In a Name?

I'm not ignoring the nice, thoughtful replies I've gotten to my query on the "sinner's prayer" and altar calls. I have some things drafted, but it may be a while longer before I get it/them finished! I'm trying, though :). Real life must take priority over blogging. . .

Meanwhile, while I run around today like a chicken with its head cut off (much like the poor unfortunate birds that I just deboned. . . ), I'm going to cheat and copy and paste a guest post by Sister Dear :-D. No, sorry, Lydia, it's not poetry. I'm still coaxing her to compose some new pieces. This was a random-thought-process-turned-blog-post from last week. I meant to post it yesterday, but I didn't get around to it. Here 'tis:


Names are fascinating. I like names that have beauty, meaning, or history. Names are important to me, and I'm not really sure why.

Susan and I had a great time playing a game of Life recently with Paul and Ashley, and I happily got 5 kids throughout the course of the game! (Susan was a bit jealous, as she only got 1.) I love getting kids because I get to give them names! It's like taking the little blue and pink pegs that are meaningless objects and suddenly giving them each character and life.

I remember a fairly vivid dream that I had a couple years ago in which I realized I was pregnant. I remember this overwhelming feeling of utter awe that filled me as I realized that I was carrying a little human inside of me. But what overtook my mind the most was the question of "What am I going to name him?" I felt like the name that I picked would somehow shape the being inside of me for good or for bad, like I was holding his future in the decision of one little word.

When we were younger, Susan and I made up several lists on several different occasions of names that we liked or might want to name our kids one day. When we met Jessie and her family recently for a brief lunch, I overheard some of a conversation that Susan, Jessie, and her sister Katie were having involving names. Apparently Jessie and Katie have both made lists of names that they like and would consider for future kids' names too, but Susan and I were surprised to hear that they could really only think of about half a dozen that they really liked!

When Susan and I used to make lists of all the possible names we would name our kids, we could get some pretty long lists going, adding many names of family, friends, or characters in the Bible. And yes, our family has even gone a little overboard and made up a list of fun math names that Susan could use for her hypothetical kids, even thinking of them in alphabetical order, like in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, only they would be math names, not Bible names. Let's see, I think we had something like Algebra (Al for short), Calculus (Cal), Denominator (Denny), Fraction (Fran), Hypothesis, Integral.... I don't remember all of them, but we had a bit too much fun! :-)

While I'm rambling about names, I have to mention Anne. I love Anne of Green Gables. Who doesn't? :-) Anne also saw more to a name than just what is on the surface. I love the part of the beginning of the book where she's answering questions that Marilla poses to her just after her first arrival. Here's an excerpt of the conversation as she's giving some of her background to Marilla.

"My father's name was Walter Shirley, and he was a teacher in the Bolingbroke High School. My mother's name was Bertha Shirley. Aren't Walter and Bertha lovely names? I'm so glad my parents had nice names. It would be a real disgrace to have a father named--well, say Jedediah, wouldn't it?"

"I guess it doesn't matter what a person's name is as long as he behaves himself," said Marilla, feeling herself called upon to inculcate a good and useful moral.

"Well, I don't know." Anne looked thoughtful. "I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I've never been able to believe it. I don't believe a rose would be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage. I suppose my father could have been a good man even if he had been called Jedediah; but I'm sure it would have been a cross."

For the most part, I think I'll have to respectfully disagree with Anne. ;-) I like the name Anne, although I do, like she does, prefer the 'e' on the end, and then I'm also not particularly fond of Walter or Bertha, although I do like the name Walter pretty well – the name grew on me a lot after reading Rainbow Valley. Isn’t it funny how our likes and dislikes of name can be so influenced (at least for me) by the people we know bearing those names?

But then isn't it interesting thinking about if a rose would smell as sweet if it were named a thistle or a skunk cabbage? Of course, scientifically, yes it would, but really, a rose wouldn't be a rose if it were called a skunk cabbage. I just can't picture a table being beautiful adorned with a vase of skunk cabbages, a lover giving his sweetheart a dozen thistles, or a bride walking down the aisle in all her beauty holding... skunk cabbages. Kind of spoils the picture, just in changing the name.

We know a family who would typically wait a few days or even weeks after the birth of their baby before finally naming their child. In some ways I could see myself doing that if I ever had a child. I'm not always very good at decision making, and since I think names are such important decisions, I might have a really hard time making up my mind! I also might want to wait until the birth to see if a name fits the baby right.

But then on the other hand, I could see the name being one of the first decisions I make, even within the first week after I found out I was pregnant! Especially if it was a boy, I think I would have an easier time since I especially like the names Enoch and Stephen, from the characters in the Bible, and it would be really fun to have a son named Samuel.

And yes, of course, there's that detail that I can just see my mom thinking of as she reads this - if I have a child then it wouldn't be just me deciding the name, and I'd have to let my husband have a say! ;-) I can't imagine what would happen if I actually ever got married and my husband and I disagreed on names! I would have a hard time submitting in that. I guess it's best that I don't plan on getting married just in case my husband actually really liked names like Quinton, Bertha, Nimrod, Fred, etc. (I hope no one gets offended by any preferences I mention in this post!). I wonder if anyone has ever gotten divorced over differences in preferences for the baby's name, or if a poor baby has ever been called two different names his whole life because the parents disagreed....

I can't imagine doing what my mother dear did. She and Daddy Dear agreed that if I was a boy, she would name me, and if I was a girl, he would name me. Well, I was a girl obviously, and Daddy named me Hannah, but my mom actually didn't really like that name! I couldn't stand naming my precious little baby a name I didn't like. Just for the record, my mom quickly grew to like the name. :-)

A very good friend of ours, Erika, has had the somewhat cruel idea of giving her child a very odd spelling for his name - very odd, like, the name would be spelled F-r-e-d, but it would be pronounced just like the name Bob. Hehe, that would be funny, but so confusing!! Poor little kid!

So, after all the thrill I get with names and picking out good, meaningful names, isn’t it sad that I don’t plan on ever getting married and having my own kids to name?!?! I can only hope that Susan will get married and allow me to name one of her kids.

Or maybe I can start a name consultant business! For families that are having a hard time naming their kids, they can just give me a ring and I’ll help them out! You can bet you’d see a lot more Enochs walking around than you’ve ever seen before. ;-) Well, even if I don’t end up being a name consultant, at least I can still name my balls.

Yes, I name my sports balls. It gives them character! There’s Joshua the football, Victor the soccer ball, Gimli the soccer ball, Patrick Stan Butalbladder(sp?) the soccer ball (don’t ask), Faithful the volleyball, and Rocky the Frisbee, and I think that’s it. Sadly all these old friends must sit in storage and not be used due to my injuries. :’-( It makes me so sad to think of them all lonely!

Aack, and this post is getting way too long. If you’ve made it this long, you deserve a congratulations or something! I had a lot more plans for this post, especially having to do with going into names in the Bible and how much significance names used to have. I’ve been going to a Spanish Bible study on Wednesday nights about los nombres de Dios (the names of God) that has been really fascinating! I really liked the name we studied this past Wednesday especially, which was found only once in the Bible, and that was when Hagar was pregnant with Ishmael and running away from Sarai and God appears to her to tell her to go back. Hagar calls God in Hebrew “El Roi”, literally “the One Who sees”.

Well, thank you for taking this visit into Hannah’s mind. And remember – if you’re ever in need of naming advice, I’m only a phone call (or e-mail) away! ;-)

And what do you all think – What’s in a name?


Jessie said...

Well, since you referenced me in your post, Hannah, I feel obliged to leave your first comment : ) (I feel special!)
But I'll have to comment more when I get home. I'm at work and only stopped by to see what was going on in y'all's world : )
Talk to you soon!

Anna Naomi said...

That was fun to read Hannah! I also really enjoy names, and especially their meanings. It's amazing how people do kinda live up to the meanings of their names... Mom named me Anna - meaning Graceful one, which is what people say I am all the time. And my middle name, Naomi, means pleasant, so I try to live up to that one....

I enjoyed your post!

zan said...

Hannah, You remind me so much of myself about 7 or 8 yrs ago, it isn't funny. You are hillarious. I have a hunch you will get married. ; )

Loved your post!

Yes, my grandfather was called two different names because his parents could never agree on a name. His legal name is George Wayne. His dad called him George and his mom called him Wayne. His wife liked Wayne and called their first born (my dad)Wayne, too. My grandfather introduces himself as George.

I liked the name Wayne, but my husband doesn't like it very much so we settled on George for our first born. I loved the name Harry because it was unusual and cute and we used my husband's grandfathers' name Ernest as a middle. George's middle name is Roland after my maternal grandfather.

It is funny. I used to make very long lists in my head when I was a girl (not that I have become a man or anything, I guess I call myself a woman, now). None of the names I have named my boys are names that I used to think of. The older I get the more I appreciate family and try to name my kids after them. I try to name them after cool relatives. Harry is named after a distant cousin of my husband's who got his leg blown off in WW I. How cool will that be for my Harry when he grows up? I also have a Harry (Harold is the full name for Harry) who worked for NASA. He is my great uncle. George has his great grandfather to relate his name to and a great uncle on my husband's side who also was in WWI (he came out of it with both lower limbs, just fyi).

Now, I really hope to have girls. I love the names Susanna, Rose, Clara, and Margaret. They are all family names except Rose. I also think about Florence after my late grandmother who I just adored.

Don't forget nicknames. When you have a baby you are definately NOT going to call him the long distiguished name you gave him. Example: George was Go-be (long story) and Gober (long 'o' sound). Harry is Buggernaught, Buggernaughtski, and Bugger-Face. Or, if I'm lazy, just plain Bugg. Right now he is Sir Poops-a-Lot because he needs his diaper changed. So I better stop writing silliness and go.

Jessie said...

Okay, here I am, home from the library and well-fed. (That means I'm happy!)
Part of my problem in not being able to come up with too many names is because
1- My own immediate family has already used up some really good ones, and
2- I don't like to name children the same name as other people we currently know (if it's possible).
I do like to name children after somebody, but they have to be really special, so that anyone they're not named after doesn't get jealous! For instance, I would like to name my (hypothetical) girl Elizabeth Blossom (Last Name) after my paternal grandmother. (Her maiden name was Blossom, and she had no middle name- long story. She was the youngest of 5 daughters, and all 4 of her older sisters had middle names, but she said my great-grandparents must have run out of names they liked because they could only think of one for her! So see, lack-of-good-names runs in my family...)
My Gramma died last year, so my still-living grandmother would understand if I named my daughter after Elizabeth, and not after her, Sharon, aka "Cherry". But if I named my daughter Hannah, after my littlest sister (and you, of course, other Hannah!), then my sister Katie might be offended. So there really is a method to my madness.
On the other hand, I share a middle name with my mother, so I would consider using it as my first daugher's middle name as well, to keep up the tradition, even if it does mean "(f) devotee of the god of wine (Dionysus)."
Although now that I think of it, I suppose using my own (or my husband's) family names for middle names wouldn't be so bad...

Anyway, all-time favorites of mine are:
Jonathan David
Isaiah Daniel
Mark William

Caroline Ruth
Elizabeth Blossom
Sarah Jane

And you're right, there's six dozen! (Well, to be exact, there are twelve names here, but *alas* only six children for me!) I suppose that once it comes time for any of this to really matter, I may have changed my mind, and of course my husband will have something to say about it all! I sure do hope he can come up with good names if we need more than six! What would I do if I had all boys or all girls?? I would surely run out of names.
But anyway, enough hypothetical thinkin' for me! It was fun.
I bet you enjoyed the Spanish Bible study! Have you found any French ones yet? ; )

Jessie said...

Sorry, should have used brackets here: "Elizabeth Blossom [Last Name]" because it's kind of confusing with my other parenthetical phrases around it. 8-)

Jessie said...

another correction.
There are not six dozen names. (That would be a lot of kids!) There are six, or as I was trying to say, a half-dozen. Une demi-douzaine.


Et aussi, m'amie, Jessi, a dit qu'elle crois que tu va s'epouser un des jours ; ) Une prophétie??

Susan said...

Your comment was, as usual, highly amusing, Zan :). It's interesting to hear the stories behind your sons' names! Isn't it funny how oftentimes nicknames are longer than the "formal" names? I love the girls' names you listed! Very pretty and old-fashioned :).

Jessie, you may not have many names that you like, but I really like the ones you picked :).

My favorite boy's name has been Joshua, consistently for years. But if I go for alphabetical (a la Seven Brides for Seven Brothers), then it would be a while before I could use that, and then what if "J" was a girl? ;) I think we're getting close to the subject of a recent post. . . Hehe :).

Caleb is a close second for a boy's name. Then David, Daniel, Jonathan, Timothy, Josiah, etc. Sensing a common theme? I love Bible names, especially Old Testament. And I could come up with 10 boys' names that started with J that I like. They are the easiest.

Girls? Lydia, Grace, Miriam, Elizabeth, Anna, Leah, Rebekah, Sarah, Emma, Esther, Ruth, etc. Okay, enough rambling ;), you get the idea. I should pull out some of my old "names lists" just for fun sometime.

Are you proud? I could actually read what you typed to Hannah in French. Mother Dear's lessons somehow have stuck with me.

Anna Naomi said...

Well, since everyone's sharing names they like, I may as well share mine... I like Bible names as well Susan! So, here's possibles for future children (Lord willing!)

Girls: Miriam Abigail (Miriam after my sister and friend), Maryanna Esther (Maryanna kinda after me, but I like the names combined), Deborah Naomi, and I really like the name Hadassah...

Boys: I really like my family's names, but we'll see. Luke Timothy (older brother Luke, and I also have an uncle Timothy), Elijah Isaiah (another brother, Elijah), and John Samuel (dad's name is John).

You never know though... I may not end up using half of them, or any at all, but I enjoy picking out names!

zan said...

For future boys (because I have this feeling I will be having a lot of boys), I like Thomas (Tommy), Colin (after my great, great grandfather who was a seacaptain and was shipwrecked three times), and Nathan (after my husband.

Another nickname that we have used for the boys when they are babies is just "Man" or "The Man" or "Little Man." If you saw how my hsuband and I converse normally with each other you would think we were a little crazy. We will say, "Honey, did you change, 'The Man'?" We both know that it refers to the present infant we have. For some reason when Harry was born we ceased calling George, "Man" and started calling Harry, "Man."My husband also affectionately calls both boys, Stink, Stinkermuffin, or Gooberface or Goob. I understand the "Stink" name and the many varieties (I won't bore you with all the varieties one can do with 'Stink'), but not Goob. I guess I'm not the only one with a weird imagination or as I would look at it, an advanced sense of humor.

Ashley said...

This is funny. I love names. I own two baby name books, and often used them for stories I would write.

I like unique names, but I don't want my kid to get weird stares all the time. So I'll probably settle for something rare but not unheard of. I don't want to give away any possibilities because Paul and I want to keep the name we pick out a secret until he/she is born. (Hypothetical baby, of course, I'm not trying to announce anything!)

Right now, I am planning to name my first daughter's middle name the same as mine, and the second daughter's middle name my first name. When I was younger I had chosen the name "Jennifer Ashley" for the second daughter, and call her Jenna. I think that is such a pretty name. Paul's family has a tradition, too, of giving the first son the father's name as the middle name. Therefore, our first son will be "____ Paul".

Paul's favorite name is River, and he's trying to get me to name our daughter that. We'll see...

My name choosing criteria: I have to like the sound and it should look beautiful written out (sorry, it's the artist in me), the meaning should be special (although if it doesn't then that's okay), named after anyone, and its uniqueness. Of course, if I like the name then I'm not going to discount it because it means something stupid like "dweller in the ash-tree meadow". Also, if the meaning is special but it's not a unique name, then I'll still consider it. I'm excited to name my kids. :-)

Anna - I had a friend named Hadassah once. I thought that was such a pretty name. :-)

une_fille_d'Ève said...

I'm really enjoying reading everyone's thoughts and interest in names! Very fun. :-)

Jessica - It sounds like you view naming kids similar to the way I view picking brides maids - it's hard not to hurt someone's feelings. I guess maybe that's how some kids get more than one middle name. Kinda like some people having 12 brides maids!
J’étais excité voir que tu as utilisé un peu français dans ta réponse! Ça m’a rendu hereuse. :-)
And, yes, I am really enjoying the spanish bible study, but no, sadly, I haven't found a french one around here! :-( There aren't enough native french speakers in GA. :-/

Anna - I'm glad you enjoyed it!
Sometime people live up to their names, and sometimes they don't. *glances over at Sister Dear and whispers* For instance, Susan means "Full of Grace", but if that's talking about gracefulness, then she didn't live up to that at all! *smiles lovingly at my sometimes-clutzy sister dear*

Zan - I agree with Susan, I enjoyed your comment! Does no one think I actually won't get married?! Let's be optimistic! ;-)
Quite interesting about your grandfather being called two names! I figured surely someone reading the post would know someone who had that happen.
I really enjoyed hearing why you named your kids their names - fun! I love your nicknames for them. :-)

Ashley - I could tell that Paul liked the name River! I too like names to look pretty when they're written out. I used to really like the name Laura because the cursive 'L' looks so pretty.
Hehe, so is there actually a name that means "dweller in the ash-tree meadow"? I got a kick out of that.

Ashley said...

Uh... yeah, the name "Ashley" means nothing more than "dweller in the ash-tree meadow". How romantic is that? If I were Anne I'd change my name to Cordelia.

(By the way, did you seriously not know that?)

Oh speaking of people's names fitting them... "Paul" means "Little" or "Small in stature". Hehehe

une_fille_d'Ève said...

Wow. Nope, I'm seriously that blonde - I didn't know that or even just guess it! Actually, I really like that meaning. It makes me like the name Ashley even more now!

I just looked it up and it said that it means only "Ash tree meadow", not a dweller. I guess there are just variants of the meaning. I like "dweller in the Ash tree meadow better".

Samara said...

What a great guest post, and with a fun comments section too :)

My husband and I are throwing around names for our pending baby these days- we've settled on naming him a Hindi name (my husband is Indian) but it there are lots of little restrictions upon which we agree: it can't a Hindu name (no "Ganesh", "Devajhoti" or "Kaliman"), it can't be longer than three syllables (no "Chandrashakar") and it can't contain the syllable "deep" (so no Pradeep, Sandeep, Jadeep or Deepak").

Unfortunately for our fetal family member, our conversations usually degenerate into Googling "Hindi baby names" and then trying to find the funniest Hindi name possible; the currently reigning favorite is "Bhoosheet".

I'm leaning toward something simple and easy to pronounce: Kumar, Divikar and Dinesh are all nice. Any suggestions?

Ashley said...

You're just jealous, Hannah, because I live in a tree. :-)

Oooh I like Divikar and Dinesh, Samara. Are those boy's names? I went to prom with a guy from India, named Rohit. I've always kinda liked that name.

Susan said...

I think Hannah hit a point of interest here ;).

I think that's such a pretty meaning for your name, Ashley!

Thanks, Sister Dear, for explaining that I don't live up to my name meaning. *ahem* Give me some credit - I've come a long way. . . Since your name means Grace, that means I'm full of you :).

Yay! Samara still is lurking :). How is your pregnancy going?

Samara said...

Things are great- he's kicking hello right now. I've been busy, but manage to drop by when I can :) It's great that you & Jess got to meet one another!

John Dekker said...

Indian names are always easy for an Australian - you can just go for a cricket player. ;) "Sachin" would probably be top of the list. Is that a Hindu name?

Ashley: I own two baby name books

Of course, there's an inherent problem with these books... you're not just naming a baby! ;)

Susan said...

I'm glad to hear everything is going well, Samara :).

Sherrin said...

I like unusual Bible names too, and enjoy horrifying people by suggesting them :). Obadiah, for example. I would not actually call a child that though. I am sure I'd marry someone far too sensible. I really do like Abraham, Moses, and Malachi. I think Abraham especially should be used more, since he was such a great father of our faith.

Susan said...

Hmmm, not a real fan of Obadiah, I must admit :). I like the name Abraham, though, especially, and you are right that it should be used more! The nickname Abe is nice also :), so what's not to like? Malachi isn't my cup of tea, but I really like the name Micah.