What's in a Name?

Last night over dinner, I spent some time teaching my 3-year-old son how to headbang.

Ok, it wasn’t a good mosh-pit style thrashing. He bobbed his head to the music more forcefully than he usually does. And he started singing with me, trying to sound out the words a couple beats after I sang them.

His name means “praise,” and he has been actively interested in music as long as he’s been expressing a personality. The Wifey and I chatted about how interesting it is that he reflects his name, or that his name reflects his personality. Sort of a chicken-or-egg thing. We’re not sure which it is.

We’ve always been very selective about our names for our children. Each time, we discussed and weighed options until we knew we had the name that was exactly right.

The Wifey knew for certain what she wanted to name our firstborn before she even met me. She had a promise from God that she would one day have a daughter with a particular biblical name. When everyone else was positive our first was going to be a boy, Wifey held on to that promise (and a couple other indicators) and knew it would be a girl.

Now 14 years old, our daughter sometimes acts a lot like a boy, so maybe that threw everyone off.

Her name means “bee,” and she’s our social butterfly, flitting from one group of people to the next. Living in the military means making new friends and moving away from others, and our kids have had to adapt to that. But the Bee is the one who always comes home with a list of unfamiliar names and relationships – “Oh, Jonny is the brother of Alicia, she’s the sister of Amara, the one I was hanging out with when I met Charlie, the kid across the street that knows Thomas, Matthew’s friend that Jonathan met yesterday at the park when Hailey came out.” All of it stated matter-of-fact, like duh, why don’t you guys know all this yet?

Our 12 year old son has two middle names, one which means “watchman” and one which comes from a biblical reference for a tribe of Israel who paid attention to things going on around them and thus knew what God’s people ought to do. And sure enough, he is our details-oriented, wide-eyed, “how does it work?” little scientist. He’s into studying rocks and electronics. He watches all the educational shows on NetFlix to figure things out (Man vs Wild is a current fave, and he has built his own survival kit). He builds makeshift machines with the spare parts he collects from disassembling devices.

He took apart his grandparents’ VCR when he was 1. We were there around Christmas, and he was crawling around just doing his baby thing while we visited and chatted. Then we looked up and realized he had VCR parts in his hand, and the front of the VCR was off. He also did this at my parents’ house too, except this time it was unscrewing a wall fixture with… we still don’t know how he did it.

I guess he watches for when we’re not watching, too!

Then there’s our “middle” boy, 8 years old, whose name means “Justice.” Like most middles, he is keenly attuned to any sense of unfairness. If someone gets something, then everyone better, or else we’ll hear about it. He even enforces this standard when it’s to his own detriment, because he’s so passionate about fairness. I’m sure we tried to teach him equity, fairness, and so on. But we never made it a bigger deal than everything else. That’s just how his personality has turned out.

My name, too, has been particularly appropriate. King David was the psalmist of Israel, and more Psalms are written by him than any other. I took eight years of piano lessons, but what I learned most through all of that is how to let the piano “speak” for me, how to sit and pour emotion and feeling out through the keys. My mother would relax in her recliner and listen to me play for hours. She told me more than once how appropriate my name was, and how much she hoped that I would use music to bless others and minister for God just as King David had.

So what’s in a name? What power does a name have over the thing it represents, if any?

My wife posed this question yesterday as we talked. “Do you think God helped us choose names that would fit their personalities? Or do you think God met us in the names we chose, and their personalities developed to fit what we spoke over them?”

I’m not sure. Of course, maybe it’s all coincidence, and it just worked out that way.

Do you know of a particularly appropriate name? Have you seen how names reflect personalities, or vice versa? I’d love to hear about it in a comment.

2 thoughts on “What's in a Name?”

  1. Rachael (Rachel) means “lamb of God” which for me is appropriate. I wouldn’t call myself docile or a follower of anything, but I do follow God and trust him with my whole life and heart, so it’s a very fitting name for me.

  2. Heh, the Lamb of God certainly wasn’t always docile, right? Obedient to God’s will even to death on the cross… but resolute and courageous in His conviction to do the will of the Father. That works. 🙂

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