Names can be very meaningful for many reasons. Above all a name gives an identity to a person, an object, a building, a road and so the list goes on, and makes organisation that much easier. I am not a cuddly toy collector, never have been, but I do have a rather attractive teddy bear about 10 inches in height with a neat little scarf around his neck – and, no, I don’t know what that is in centimetres! He was given to me quite some time ago by one of my daughters. I use the word ‘he’ because it does have a name, I called it Wordsworth after the poet.
I remember when we expecting our children and the time and care we took over the names we chose. They each have a Christian name and a middle name and all were chosen for a reason, the middle names were names in the family we wanted to carry on and to reflect that they belonged to a wider family. Over the last few years a whole host of new names have been brought into use as well as a variety of spellings for a same sounding name. It is sometimes difficult, nay impossible, to know whether the person is a he or a she. Much confusion is caused when a kind of ‘free for all’ exists. My paternal grandparents wanted to call one of their daughters ‘Bett’ but the vicar said that he couldn’t baptise her with that name because it was not a proper name so they chose Edith, the vicar baptised her and ever afterwards the family called her Bett! What we would call a pet name, many a person is called by a name not on their birth certificate – which bears a ‘proper’ name. Personally, I think that is a better system than to saddle a child with a name which is going cause comment or confusion all their days. The tide does seems to be gradually turning back.
What prompted this subject? The other day I recalled an old Bob Dylan song entitled ‘Man gave names to all the animals, in the beginning’. In other words, God made cows, sheep, birds, fish and so forth yet it was man who gave each an identity and said, for example, that is a goat. It continues to this day as new species are discovered and the same is true of the solar system and planets. Scientists are the ones who decide which is a star and which a planet as well as whether to downgrade their status as happened in respect of Pluto not too long ago. It is a fascinating subject for somebody such as myself who is interested in words and enjoys hearing Susie Dent on Countdown giving details of the origins on words or sayings. Sometimes the origins have been lost in the mists of time.
Our own royal babies are given names chosen with special care that usually demonstrate something of their heritage and also indicates a certain stability about the whole institution. It is done with purpose.
However, there are occasions in the Scriptures where God has ordained a name such as when the angel told Mary that she was going to have a son and that he should be given the name Jesus (Matt 1: 21) Verse 22 explains that what had happened took place to fulfil prophecy where it was said that, “the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel which means ‘God with us”. A very special baby given a name that would reflect his identity and purpose. Christ himself gave carefully chosen names to several of his disciples when he called them (Luke 5). One such was Simon who became Simon Peter, Peter the rock on whom Christ would build his church.
What difference does it make to what’shername? I am sure that all parents give some thought to the names they give their children but maybe, sometimes, just a name they fancy or make up does the child no favours or society generally.