what’s in a name?

have you ever uttered the sentence: “funny, he/she doesn’t look like a ?” i met a (black) man named shamus with a last name that is equally irish. it set me to thinking. our parents (presumably) carefully select a name that will reflect who we are, or who they would like us to become. i did not have a name for the first week or so of my life. my mother wanted to see what type of personality i had instead of giving me a name and hoping that it fit. i was “bright eyed and bushy tailed” to hear her tell it, and emerged into the world curious and ready for something new, so she named me Eshe, Swahili for “life.” how much of who we are is determined by the name that we carry?

i have often met people who didn’t seem to match their names. i have known certain names where the bearers share similar characteristics (i would never name a child bertha). many a person has renamed themselves upon reaching adulthood because they felt mismatched with their given name. there is a certain power in naming something. a thought, a feeling, person can seem intangible until you give it a name. on several occasions, i have struggled to find the words to convey an emotion, and once i found them, i felt more at peace. God gave man the great responsibility of naming all that he had created. are people trapped in the wrong name doomed to a life of feeling out of place? it must be terrible to wake up every day feeling…not yourself.

if you can speak things into being, and i believe that words carry weight well beyond what we are willing to admit, then by haphazardly naming a child, a parent does them a great disservice. we spend so much of our lives trying to find ourselves, that adding a name mismatch to the equation is just cruel. to all people: choose your words carefully, and to the parents: name your children wisely.

“Well then, if i’m a Namer, what does that mean? What does a Namer do?…When I was memorizing the names of the stars, part of the purpose was to help them each to be more particularly the particular star each one was supposed to be. That’s basically a Namer’s job. Maybe you’re supposed to make earthlings feel more human.”

–Meg/Cherubim, A Wind in the Door, Madeleine L’Engle