What’s in a Name? How Important are Your Children’s Names?

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We all have names that our parents gave us, and they all have different reasons for choosing that specific name.  Sometimes they love a specific meaning that comes from the name, other times it represents someone they loved or admired from the family, and sometimes on of our parents just thought it was pretty and sounded nice.

What is it about naming a child that is just so fascinating?  To me, I loved picking out the names for our children with my husband, because of the gift it was to give them a good name, with good meanings, and a hope for their future.  Being of Polish Jewish descent on my mother’s side, I specifically love the Hebrew approach of placing high value and importance on our children’s names, even if they think we’re silly for it. 🙂

***

My parents took naming their children seriously also, and as a result, my full name means Crown of Grace.  Mostly my mother picked it, taking my first name from part of my father’s, and picking out “Ann” as the “Grace” part.  It is such a beautiful name, and I’m ever so grateful!  I was reminded of the meaning back in September when I encountered an interesting woman, who when she heard my first name, remarked to me, “Do you know that your name’s meaning is “Crown” or “Crowned?”  I told her yes, and that it gets worse, that my mother paired it with “Grace” for my middle name, so that in total it literally means “Crown of Grace.”  I told her that I always feel that I can never live up to this name, because although I want to, I often fail.  Who could live up to being a woman named “Crown of Grace?”  She laughed and pointed out that both have nothing to do with having to “live up” to them, or earning them, a crown you are given as royalty, you’re born into it.  And grace is also given and not earned.  She suggested I should just accept it and grow into becoming “Crowned with Grace.”

A verse that has always captured me about my name:

“She (Wisdom) will place a garland of grace on your head;

she will give you a crown of beauty.”

Proverbs 4:9

But what about for people who have strange meanings behind their names?  You may be reading this and thinking to yourself how much you don’t like the meaning of your name, or how you wish your parents had simply picked something else.  I knew a girl named a beautiful, Spanish name, but it’s meaning meant “Lame” – unable to walk.  One name that I always liked, when I looked up it’s meaning, I was surprised to find it meant, “Blind.”  Out of all the things one can name their children, speaking prophecies and blessings into their future, “lame,” or “blind,” are so sad.  It doesn’t seem fair at times – then again, life isn’t fair is it?

But God is a just God, and He “makes everything beautiful in it’s time.”  One of the most intriguing things to me about Christianity, is the history of God taking liberty of changing a person’s name, sometimes completely, and with it, often changing the entire meaning of it.  It’s very interesting to do a personal study on all the people in the Bible who when God encountered them, He gave them a New Name.

God’s ways are perfect, and He is the perfect Father.  Only He truly knows us and knows our hearts, perhaps that’s why He would see a person, and decide to give them a new name.

If you are interested in looking up your name’s meaning biblically, or looking for verses that have their meaning in it, I’ve found with my husband and our children, that we all have verses that can go with our names.  Having a verse that has your name’s meaning and promise in it can be so special, but it takes time and a good concordance to search through and find a verse that fits.  My husband has a verse in Isaiah that perfectly goes with his name, and even his life calling.  And our two sons’ names we purposely picked from verses that we’ll tell them when they’re older.  It’s edifying to find a verse that fits your name’s meaning.

If you don’t like the meaning of your name though, it may be more appropriate to search out a verse that has brought you through many of life’s trials and found special meaning to you personally.  This is called a “Life Verse.”

 

“A good name (reputation) is more desirable than great riches;

to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

Proverbs 22:1

(Photo Credit: Rum&Lace Blog)

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19 thoughts on “What’s in a Name? How Important are Your Children’s Names?

  1. Interesting topic, Dragonfly. Did something spark the idea for it?

    I didn’t even know what my name meant until I looked it up just now. Elizabeth means “God is my Oath”. Squee! I like it.
    🙂

  2. Several years ago, I read an interesting book about the psychological connotation of various names…for example, “Dave” and “David” have very different connotations when people are surveyed as to what a person with this name would be like. I was telling a business associate about this book as we were waiting to change planes in an airport:

    Me: So according to this book, the absolute worst possible name you can give anyone is “Bertha.”

    Elderly Lady Sitting Nearby: I quite agree. That in my name and it has been a burden all of my life.

    Me: Tactful Dave strikes again

  3. And no, nothing really sparked the idea for it. 😉 It’s been in my head since September, I just didn’t write it out. We are hoping to get pregnant again over the summer 😉 I just want to encourage people to name their children good names, they really mean a lot!

  4. knowing the meanings of the names we picked out names for our children was really important. we chose to wait till they were born to find out if they were a boy or girl, so we had one of each gender picked out.

    it’s interesting that their names truly do represent them.

  5. LOL David, so funny that poor woman. Yes, Bertha does have a fairly poor connotation unfortunately. My mom grew up Catholic, and her name was “Mary,” but the meaning of it is “bitter,” which she never liked. I think of her more as “Merry,” because of the optimism she had and brightness… rather than “Bitter.” But it does seem like it can affect a child’s life pretty dramatically.

    One of my professors at college told us that he had a black female student one year whose name was “Shithead.” She pronounced it like “Shi-THEA” but when written, it looked like that. He said he was never so angry that a parent could do that to their child. Very strange and sad :/

  6. It many not have been the parents who perpetrated the ShiThea name. Someone who had a lot of experience working in hospitals said that obnoxious interns like to suggest double-meaning names to new parents. For example, there were the twins who got the names Lemongelo and Orangelo…

  7. Ichabod is worse than Bertha by a far shot, and in several ways. But by far the worst names I’ve seen in the Bible are Nabal (fool), and Maher-shalal-hashbaz (swift is the booty, speedy is the prey). Who wants a reference to a “booty” in their name? That’s a swift booty without a swift name. At least it was swift instead of fat… No one wants their prey laughing at..

    Never mind. I’m having too much fun with this. 😉

  8. “For example, there were the twins who got the names Lemongelo and Orangelo…”

    I always wondered if that story was actually apocryphal. It kind of spread like Mickey and the poprocks. 🙂

  9. I don’t know if my source can vouch for that story personally, but she did personally hear the patient who came in concerned that she might have the Smiling Mighty Jesus. (spinal meningitis)

  10. You could do what we did — spend your honeymoon listing the names you wish to use for your children. Then start going down the list. Then, when you have run out of boys’ names, you can have a contest for a few select sane individuals and the winner gets a prize. 🙂 Which is what we are going to have to do if we have another son.
    We need a few more girls to even the score and use some of our names.
    In our family, the oldest son and daughter are named after the grandparents. Then it was great-grandparents, then uncles and aunts. Since we come from a line of Italian immigrants on one side, and a line of WASPs on the other, we have very traditional old-fashioned names, along with the ethnic Italian names, who have always named children after the saints.

  11. That’s sweet, STMA! We made a list like that for all our potential children when we were still dating. We were really crazy. I love how y’all have names from the family incorporated… that’s been important for us, too.

    I read your blog post and tried to comment but I don’t think I linked it right to my wordpress because it didn’t show up or go through I think. But generally I agree with you on your post about raising girls to have a little bit of seriousness and sensibility when it comes to dating and especially picking their life partner. In other things, like music and Disney movies, I think we may have opposite tastes LOL… I do love Classical music, right before you linked your post here, I was planning a post that had 3 of my favorite pieces that I think are GREAT for the kids to listen to. It’s so timeless and beautiful, classical music, but we are music junkies in our house. I’ve played several instruments growing up, both my parents did as well and were constantly playing the piano at home, and my husband and I both sing together duets (we’re weird). So we literally listen to almost all kinds of music between the both of us. And I love my kids to listen to crazy loud kid music, rock music (that’s appropriate), and silly things like “I like to Move It.” To me, the most important thing for them right now is to learn to love music, and love FUN music as well as the beautiful, timeless kind. I try to balance that.

    And I love Cinderella and the Disney Princesses… I think, especially the old ones like Cinderella, show the value and importance of having virtue and a sense of morality, rather than selfishness and vain ambition.

  12. I respect your opinion, Dragonfly, but my convictions stem from thirteen years in classrooms, both private and public, with children from across the board — wealthy, poor, and everywhere in between. Almost universally, the children who had the most exposure to Disney cartoons, music other than classical, and had parents who failed to be vigilant in keeping their children serious about life were disruptive, inattentive to their studies, careless and frivolous. I had to deal with the fruits every single day.

    Even children who came from large families that were not affluent were afflicted with what I would call the same type of “cancer”. It stemmed from the parents. If the parents saw childhood as a training period, looking upon their children not as children, but as the adults they were to become, the children were fine. They were disciplined, they spoke with correct grammar and vocabulary choices, they were respectful and serious about their studies. If they were allowed to listen to frivolous music, allowed to watch silly movies, allowed to goof off too much — well, from a classroom teacher’s perspective, it was a disaster. Which is why a lot of idealistic young people start out teaching and then quit as soon as they have a chance. I enjoyed teaching as a rule, but I much more preferred my time behind a secretary’s desk where I didn’t have to deal with the headaches of trying to get people to learn who didn’t want to and parents who refused to support us or listen to our advice. I bailed out while pregnant with my oldest and probably will not return when the kids are grown, unless I have no other choice to earn my living.

  13. That’s fine, STMA, we just have opposite experiences then I think. I get it that being a teacher for 13 years, seeing the effects of bad parenting etc. on the kids’ futures and scholastic ability, must have been frustrating and heartbreaking. For us, I started homeschooling my oldest when he was just 3 years old, and we did all kinds of academic work, and he advanced really well and is now 2nd in his class in kindergarden. When we have parent teacher conferences each quarter, she always tells me how great I did preparing him and how she wishes that all her students could have had that chance. So even with all the foolishness and frivolity in his life at home with me, he still was able to take his school and studies seriously even at such a young age. Sometimes I think boys need more time though before starting school at 5, so not all boys are the same, but I was actively trying to get him used to sitting and having to do school work for 2 years before, and it definitely seems to have helped.

    But honestly, we only did 2 hours of sit down work from 9am-11am, and the rest was exciting visits to museums, the zoo, or parks like our gorgeous botanical garden, library visits, or watching educational kids movies from the library, etc. He was only 3, so those 2 hours of intense work were definitely enough at that time. We did focus on reading writing and math, but also culture around the world and little stories of history, and when he turned 4, we started doing kid science experiments. All of this had a fun aspect to it, though, only the 2 hours of sit down work were more difficult and serious. I wanted him to appreciate art, so I let him have fun learning to paint (some of my mommy friends never let their kids paint when that young because of the mess, which is sad to me), I did let him have a music center in our game room where he could play on the tambourine and piano and drums and guitar, so that he’d get to feel like he was playing music.

    I really feel like it’s a balance of discipline and fun that kids need, especially boys, but I’m sure girls benefit from that, too. Kids NEED silliness and fun and play in their lives, they need to be able to listen to crazy fun music, to laugh with their parents. I can understand that if parents didn’t have any discipline for their kids, then of course that would enable a horrible classroom experience. There needs to be a healthy balance. But from seeing my son flourish, I know it can be good for them.

    I’ve also heard a warning that if you don’t allow your kids to have some frivolity in their life while they’re young, that they will never understand how to have joy and be joyful, and have mirth when things go wrong. To me, that’s dangerous to their mental health long-term.

  14. And by “foolishness and frivolity” with me, I mean things like dancing everyday to “I like to Move-it Move-it!” We would go crazy dancing around the house to that song and have lots of fun. This was bonding and great for our relationship… even now, he loves it when I actually get on the trampoline and play with him and wrestle with him. It’s balanced with him working in the garden with me (something probably seen as more serious and purposeful). But even now, I think it’s important to have fun with him.

  15. I personally don’t ever wrestle with my children…this would dis-establish the necessary distinction so that they will maintain the proper respect for me as both mother and teacher. If you are not a homeschooling mother, I think you can afford to do this, but it’s been my experience if you slip into that as a homeschooling mother, it is a downward spiral. Too much can slip through the cracks, too many things don’t get done, and you don’t stay on task as easily. I occasionally envy those who can simply “let go”, but that is not my vocation; it is to teach and train and make sure everything is done. Maintaining the line of authority is a full-time job; adults-in-training.

    Crazy dancing I would NEVER do, but we have had some basic ballroom dancing lessons for my daughter when she attended a father/daughter dance. My sons I guess will need to learn if they attend a prom or something like that, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. 🙂 My daughters had some ballet for a while as well.

    My parents raised me this way, and it greatly benefitted me — it taught me stoicism and complete emotional control. I have been able to maintain a steady head in situations where a lot of my friends have freaked out. I am able to handle pretty much any situation and keep my emotions in complete check. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

    I’m aware we have some differences of opinion, so I’ll disengage from this as I am concerned it could escalate and I don’t want to go there. Please be aware that I am not trying to be disrespectful of your opinion, nor am I trying to be disagreeable.

  16. It’s fine we have differences in parenting styles… different things work for different families.

    You might like a blog I have linked on my blogroll, it’s the top one called “Homemaking Encouragement.” The author is very traditional and blogs on “old-fashioned” advice that is timeless. She introduced me to the book Stepping Heavenward, a book written in the 1800’s about a young woman’s journey into deeper Christianity. As the woman in the story gets older, she does become much more serious in her faith, but also “let’s go” with her children and wrestles with her sons. It’s a really great book, and I love hearing the perspective of someone who lived back then on life, children, and marriage/romance. You might like it!

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