Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What's the Story Behind Your Name?

"Words have meaning and names have power."  Unknown

Unless we choose a stage name or pseudonym, or legally change our names, we're stuck with the monikers given to us by our parents for life.  Some parents put a lot of time and consideration into this by scouring baby name books. 

While some future moms and dads want a name that's pleasing to the ear, others may choose one for its strong symbolic meaning, as well, for example, Gerald: mighty with the spear.  A name chosen for a baby could be one passed from generation to generation, or perhaps taken from the Bible.  Historical heroes and heroines can be popular name choices, too.

But not everyone puts that much thought into the naming process.  A friend of mine from college said that when she was born, her father asked two nurses what their names were.  One was Karen, the other Sue.  So my friend was named Karen Sue!  That was easy.

Lots of name choices are influenced by popular culture.  During the Depression, many little girls were named Shirley, after child movie star Shirley Temple.  I know someone who was spared that fate when her father insisted she be named Carmen!  She's ever thankful for his intervention and loves the more exotic and mysterious name chosen for her instead.

The girl name Madison was inspired by the 1984 movie Splash.  Nowadays, Isabella is one of the most popular girl names because of the books and films in the Twilight series.   I read an article not long ago about popular baby names inspired by films and found myself sneering.  "It's amazing how many parents name their kids after characters in movies," I thought condescendingly.  But then I had to scold myself. 

Ever heard of West Side Story?  My mom was pregnant with me when she saw it.  My name would've been Carol, but after hearing the song "Maria," you can figure out the rest of the story.  I, along with probably hundreds of thousands of other little girls in the U.S. (of non-Hispanic origin), was named Maria, back in...well, it was a long time ago.

Although a name is a serious thing, once in a while, you hear some that sound as though they were chosen on a whim.  Several years ago, my husband overheard a conversation in the grocery store between two women.  One was quite excited because she'd found the perfect name for her soon to be born daughter.  "Formica Dinette!" She exclaimed happily to her friend.  "I saw it in the Sears Catalog!"  For the child's sake, I hope someone talked her out of that!

What's the story behind your name?

Tweet me @: maria_mckenzie.  Thanks for stopping by!


Jillian said...

As a lawyer I actually saw the name Formica Dinetta on a case file once. Any wonder the kid got arrested???

My dad named me because he liked the name but he tells the story that he picked it because my mom asked him what he wanted to name me and he thought she asked what he'd been drinking. Sherry

Maria McKenzie said...

Hi, Sherry! I always appreciate your comments, and Sherry is a beautiful name:). I once read an article entitled Names Can Hurt You. If a child has a name that's rather, out of the ordinary, he or she is more likely to be picked on, and this leads to violent behavior. I'm sure, as a lawyer, you've seen many criminlas (like Formica) with odd sounding names.

William Kendall said...

I got my name because it's my father's name, and family names get used a lot in our clan. I don't particularly like it, but... oh well.

As to my penname, I decided to use the one I've got a long time ago, and I always personally liked the name William.

Maria McKenzie said...

William, you mention "clan." Are you Scottish? My husband is and he was named after his granfather. But I guess that's not really a clan thing with his family, because the grandfather was on the non-Scottish side.

Newt Livesay said...

Hello Maria. My first name was that of my late Father who carried the unusual name. It is not short for newton, newter, or anything else; it is just Newt. My middle name is a family name going back to Europe. There have been a male named "William" in our family for over 500 years. My last name is English and is from an area of England that still has numerous building, areas, etc., that carry that name. My Grand Father removed, signed the warrant to kill King Charles. Another Grand Father removed, on my Mother's side, John Winter, was a co-conspirator with Guy Fawkes in the Gunpowder Plot in 1605. They were conspiring to kill another English King, and blow up the Parliament. I guess "Freedom" is inbred into my genetics.

However, the best story. I named one of my Grandsons. His parents were occupied at the hospital when the nurse asked for the newborn babies name for the paperwork. My Daughter-in=law told the nurse I could do it. The nurse and I stepped into the hallway. Not until the birth certificate reach my son and daughter-in-law some weeks later did they find the name I had given their new son.

Now once I am dead, and he is an old man, his grandchildren or great grandchildren ask him about his middle name he will remember me, for good or bad. Right now he likes the name. I used his full name as his parents wanted, but added a fourth name; "Wolfgange."

Are we German? No, I just liked the name and I wanted him to have a unique and different name. Needless to say, I have not been asked to name any other grandchildren.

He likes to be referred to as "Wolf" amongst family. All my brothers, and our children all have family names that are not used in public. Example, Heavy, Taco, M&M, Jo, Jello, Charley Horse, and more. My Mother has calls me by a different name my whole life, that is not the name I go by. I can never remember my Mother calling me anything other than this name. No, I am not telling anyone what it is.

Is this strange? Of course I, or we, do not think so. It is a closeness knowing your family feels a special bonds with you with a special name known only to the people that you love.

Maria McKenzie said...

Hi Newt. Fascinating stories! Who did all the family genealogy? Wolfgange is a cool name, but I probably wouldn't let you name another grandchild either:)! So, not even a hint as to what your mom calls you?