Friday, November 05, 2010

Acting in a Name

The first man Adam had a tough job description when God asked him to name the animals. Some of us had trouble naming two kids, much less a herd of mammals, a flock of birds, and all the little fishes in the deep blue sea.

Have you ever wondered why your parents named you what they did? One time I asked and my mother said that she and Dad liked the name “Catherine.” My mother commented before I was born, “We could name her Catherine and call her Cathy.”

My dad answered, “Just name her Cathy.” So, I received that name at birth and later found that it means “pure one.” Where did your name come from? Does a bit of family history accompany it? We named our son after his great grandfather and his middle name is carried by at least three ancestors. Our daughter also received a variation of a family name.

Through the ages, babies received names connected to events which happened around the time of their birth or conception. More than a few infants were named after hurricanes, presidents, or pop stars. Sometime around the fourteenth century, people began to populate the earth to the extent that additional last names were needed. In medieval England, three out of five men had the name, William, Henry, Robert, John, or Richard. That’s about the time surnames became helpful.

Most people received their family names in one of four ways. A last name could come about by adding the word “son” to their father’s name (called patronymics), such as Peterson, Adamson, or Hanson. Second, people were identified by the landscape where they lived such as Hill, Woods, Glen, or Wells. Third, an occupation could help identify people such as Cartwright, Shoemaker, Baker, Boatwright, or Carpenter. Finally, last names derived from a distinguishing characteristic, personality, nickname, or nationality, Lightfoot, White, Brown, Christian, Whistler, Smiley, French or Norway.

To me, a few parents showed a flight of imagination or fleeing of their senses when they named their daughters: Crystal Chanda Leir, Hedda Lettuce, and Paige Turner. Perhaps parents wanted to toughen up their sons by naming them Rufus Leaking, Pete Moss, Terry Dactyl, and Stu Pid.

Statisticians say that children with weird names often learn to cope better than others. I don’t know if that’s true, but I remember Johnny Cash’s song, “A Boy Named Sue,” suggested that a girl name would build brawny character. But I think the more reliable people in a family should choose a baby’s name rather than anchor a child with a name like “Tulula Does The Hula From Hawaii.” True story. The girl was made a ward of the court, so they could find a proper name for her.

Every day, we act in our own name and sometimes in the name of others. I have a POA (power of attorney) on file with the IRS, so that I can inquire and pay taxes in my husband’s name. Bible hero David sent servants on a mission to Nabal asking for food in payment for their security services during sheep sheering, and the messengers announced their arrival in “David’s name.” (1 Sam. 25:9).

As the bride of Christ, the church received Christ’s name, and each disciple of Jesus is linked through his name and receives authority to act in his name. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

At the moment of this writing, Earth’s population calculates at 6,856,688, 805 (according to Even though we are most often identified by our name, may you distinguish and be distinguished by the name of Jesus. With his help, may we do our best to live up to his name, at which one day “every knee shall bow” (Philippians 2:10).

Eugene Field wrote a ditty about names, “Father calls me William / Sister calls me Will / Mother calls me Willie / But the fellers call me Bill.” People may tag us with many names and nicknames, but when our fellow companions think of us, may they at that moment, note and know that we are intricately connected and interwoven in The Christ.

No comments:

Post a Comment