Tuesday, February 01, 2005

What's in a Name?

"I've heard it said that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I never could bring myself to believe it. A rose simply couldn't smell as sweet if it were called a thistle or a skunk-cabbage." ~Anne of Green Gables
After a teensy bit of reflection, I have come to the brilliant conclusion (which I'm sure is clear to most people much earlier) that names are crucial. One is bound to start thinking about this when she knows a couple of expectant mothers and fathers. They are all "picking out names" for the child, trying them out with their last names, looking up saints and etymology and Greek roots and obscure fireflies. I've heard of a family who never picks any names until the child is born. The mother looks down at the child and says, "She looks like an Amanda." and that is that. Or the child may stay in the hospital for four days because he needs a name. And of course there is the question of whether they know if the baby is a boy or a girl, because if they don't, they're thinking of names for two very different realities.
A name forms us, challenges us, and gives us the first way to identify ourselves. There is a reason that oppressors assign numbers to people rather than names. A name expresses our humanity. It says that we have a history, family, and friends. If we go by a nickname, we probably take ourselves less seriously, or have a great-grandmother sort of name we do not think fits us. Some people "hate" their names and even go to lengths to change them. I wonder about the implications of that. Was it just a wrong fit from the start? How did the name become unrelated to the person it refers to? We also know people who, perhaps because we associate them with someone else, we always call the wrong name. "But he looks like a Brian to me," we say. If we want someone to feel at home, we use their name. There is something about hearing your own name that touches you. Whether it is in anger, fear, or joy, someone calling your name immediately has your attention. When you hear it in a crowd, even if you're sure you don't know anyone there, you turn around and search just in case. When you see the other person being greeted, you laugh and sheepishly think, "I thought she was talking to me."
Names have significance in the Sacraments as well. At Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, and Holy Orders, your name, or a name you have chosen, is used. In marriage, the couple uses their names in the vows. "I, ___, take you, ___" In the religious life, they receive new names, which show that they no longer belong to the world. There is a reason this change is hard to get used to... I still call them Caitlin, KellySue, Lindsay, Terry, Andy, and Natalie in my head, but they are now Faith, Lumen Christi, Divino Amore, Alexandra, Anna, and Regina Marie. I wonder when their names will really be them to me. I wonder if Peter's family still thought of him as Simon for a few years. Or if John Paul II is still Karol to anyone.
So while I'm waxing poetical here, might as well think about my own name and how I fail to live up to it!
Sara: Yeah, Old Testament! Here she is, faithful wife of Abraham who is sadly far gone past child-bearing years. Maybe starting to believe the neighbors who say this is a curse from God. But she was just doing her thing and granted that great desire. (yes, I'm skipping much)
Ann: St. Ann... a Jewish saint, when you consider that she probably died before Christ's public ministry. Ann and Joachim conceived the child God favored with singular grace and freedom from original sin. Ann must have known that her daughter was extraordinary. When Mary was pregnant, I do not think her mother ever doubted her.
Both of my names are Fiat-ish. Let it be done! Each of these women trusted completely in the Lord, and were steadfast in faith. Every day I should attempt to live up to my name, and trust more completely, pray unceasingly, and love with a more pure heart.
St. Ann, find me a man? haha. Just kidding. Maybe.
And now, to end, here's the reason I didn't like my middle name:
"If you will call me Anne, be sure to spell it with an E... It makes all the difference in the world! Write Ann without an E and it looks simply dreadful, but Anne with an E is quite distinguished."

1 comment:

annee said...

wow, this is awesome!

And ann without an e is definitely dreadful. The "e" adds sooo much. The more e's the better!

One time when I was growing up this cashier at Alberstons name tag said something like Anneee. I was impressed. Her name tag was total attitude, saying "The extra 'e' is for extra ME!"

That, or it was a typo. Either way, it made you think.

ok ok. keep up the good posts ...