What’s in a name?

People change their names for so many reasons.  I first became aware of this with women I knew who changed their names as a part of their working through experience of abuse.

Then there are those who have felt oppressed for one reason or another, and something about a new name feels liberating.  In many cases, the magical power of the name reflects a religion or other belief system they have adopted.

It’s kind of a shame really, to select either a name or belief system in one’s youth.     The insight and wisdom that might make for better choices doesn’t generally happen in the first 35 years of life – and the early choices may themselves have a profound impact on the person’s future.  On the other hand,  the individual’s choices then become a part of his story.   Besides, there’s no guarantee that age will bring wisom!

Then there are those who change their names for ‘practical’ reasons – often seen in new immigrants who think a name like Bob or John will remove at least one of the obstacles to fitting in.  This happened more in my generation, when there was high pressure to conform.

Above all, we did not want to be unusual in any way.  Even having an old-fashioned name – like Hector during the Bob-and-John era – was an excuse for teasing.  Absurd, really.   I remember when Elvis Presley hit the bigtime – we adolescents spent the following school day talking about his ‘funny name’.  The jokes soon stopped.

At the end of the day – or at the end of a life – the name is just a label for identification.  What it has become, its meaning, its poetry, depends entirely on the person behind it or under it – and how he lives. However odd a name may seem at the first sound, it may well be sweet as a cello by the end of a life.  Someday, people may even sing it.

This entry was posted in beliefs, choices, heritage, identity, Insight, names, psychology, reflections and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What’s in a name?

  1. john zande says:

    My dads family comes from northern Italy, so far up in the alps that the town has been Austria a few times depending on whom exactly was drawing the border. They actually founded the town in 1111. The principle core of the family name Zande Giacomo with a complement being added to distinguish the family line. The first was Zande Giacomo Prussia (don’t ask me why “prussia” as this was hundreds of years before the empire even started and not even close to where it was) and since then there have been 27 different endings; each new complement being established once the bloodline had become sufficiently diffused so as to allow marriage. It was quite ingenious for a very small town. Alas, my dads full last name was Zande Giacomo dela Morte (zande, from james, from the dead). 21 letters! They dropped it all when they moved to Australia in 1919, leaving just zande.

    Names are fascinating. You know the origins of yours?

    • Being a woman of my age, in the ‘western world’ my last name came from marriage; as a feminist, I experienced this as some lost identity of sorts; I welcome the trend away from that; in Quebec where I grew up, women now retain their names by law. The challenge arises with the naming of children — ironically they may begin to have very long names as in your heritage. Funny, when you think of it…. 🙂

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