Monday, May 10, 2010

Does A Rose By Any Other Name Smell Just As Sweet?

Do names matter?  For the better part of history, the name you have depended on your family, your culture, or your faith.      I have often wondered about the current trend to name children with popular sounding neologisms and surnames foreign to that particular family.

Years ago, I went to a Girl Scout meeting with my daughter, where we were promptly introduced to a smartly dressed little girl named Aniston.  The other mothers squealed with approval of the uniqueness of their name choice.  So effete!  So refined!  Is that a family name?

Why, yes, it is, smiled the mother mischievously.

But not your family.  Jennifer Aniston's family.  I said, guessing at what lie behind that smile a little too pointedly.

It's true! she gasped.

Still, the other mothers lauded the ingenuity, the androgyny of it, and especially the ruse.  Abasing the apellations they chose for their own children as boring, too traditional, not creative.  I, of course, defended our choice as being counter-cultural, the necessity of a patron saint, and the muddling of the faith to our children as we become increasingly worldly.

And with that lesson on How to Win Friends and Influence People, I was not invited back.  Oops.

In Sleeping Beauty,  the good fairies, Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather, come to the palace for the christening.  Each give a gift to the infant princess, Aurora, beauty, wit, and song.  Now the the story takes a turn for the worse with the appearance of Maleficent, but that is not the point I am making.  In the West, the christening is when a child receives her name.  That name is full with not only the desires of the parents, but also the lives of those that came before.

A priest-friend of mine, never to be outdone by parents who have thrown their lot in with the rest of the world, gives Christian names to children whose parents give them none.  So Aniston Lane, is baptized Anniston Lane Mary or Anniston Lane John (or whomever the saint of the day happens to be if it is a major saint), so that this child created with her own dignity in the image and likeness of God, will also have a patron.  

I have always believed that the name you give to something, but especially the names you choose for your children, not only says something about your family identity, but it ties your children to something.  It gives them context.  In choosing a name (or worse not choosing a name at all) not for its meaning or for its context (a saint, a family member, etc), but it onamonapoeic aesthetic robs your child of something important.  An identity, a context.  It demonstrates a lack of concern or thoughtfulness regarding the life of the child, who will they be?  What vision do you have for them?

Now these are my beliefs and this is a deeply personal issue, but I believe that our actions define our beliefs, not our thoughts.  If you believe nothing, and you name your child nothing or a name that means nothing . . .well, you get where I am going with this.

From the New York Times:

What’s in a Name? A Lot, as It Turns Out

Published: May 9, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. — With his frizzy hair pulled into forward-protruding spikes and his goggle-size glasses, Max Pauson resembles one of the futuristic comic-book characters he admires and draws. Ebullient and eager to show a sketchbook filled with startling portraits, he seems to have identity to spare.
But this promising art student’s strong sense of self was hard-earned. It was forged in an unstable, emotionally wrenching childhood and, in an odd detail that might serve as a metaphor for his struggles, it comes after 19 years of life without a legal name.
His birth certificate read only “(baby boy) Pauson.” Name to come.
Read the rest here.

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