Sunday, 16 January 2011

What's in a name?

I have finally convinced my son to sign his thankyou letters today, we are a bit late but it is quite stressful as this whole learning to write lark is proving tricky for my Little Bear and he will avoid it at all costs.

Anyway, whilst signing his name under duress for the seventh time, the young one turned and saith unto me:

"Mummy, did my Tummy Mummy choose my name?"

I responded:

"Yes Little Bear, Tummy Mummy gave you all three of your names and Mummy and Daddy gave you our last name when you came into our family." 

He nodded solemnly then turned and saith unto me:

"Can I have another sweet?"  

This little interlude is just one of a few recent chats about his adoption which we have shared with Little Bear. All the conversations were short and sweet and all instigated by a question from Little Bear himself. It feels the natural and organic way to talk about his history with him.

It also lead me on to pondering the question I have used for my title, what's in a name?

When I was conceived my Dad knew I was a girl. He was so convinced he chose me name and addressed me buy it when I was still in the womb, singing a little ditty he had made up based on it. He would not be swayed and refused to discuss any other choices. When the midwife announced me arrival he answered solemnly "I know". He had no earthly idea, he just had this conviction.

When my brother arrived my parents decided on a particular choice of Christian and middle names. Dad registered him alone, and the story is that he was unsure of the spelling and so he chose two completely different names. My Dad's names. These had been in my Dad's family for generations and so forgive me if I doubt there was much genuine error in the mistake!

I had my children's names decided when I was about 14 years old. A boy would be called by my father and brother's names (despite not keeping the same surname) because my brother said he wouldn't name a child of his the same. A girl would have been called Louisa after a much loved great Aunt who lived with us for a time in childhood.

These days there are all sorts of names floating around. Traditional names, traditional names with strange spellings, relatively modern derivatives of traditional names, and these also come with strange spellings, surnames now used as Christian names, and of course because of the vibrant mix of culture and ethnicity in this country we also have names which are familiar and traditional in some countries which are becoming familiar and traditional in the United Kingdom. I myself have a first name which reflects my parent's cultural heritage despite being myself born in England.

I am glad that I didn't have the task of naming my son, the name his birth mother choose fits him beautifully. I also think it is such a responsibility, giving a person the first outward strand of their identity. I know of two adults who in their thirties have changed their first names by deed poll for their own reasons, neither had outlandish given names but are comfortable with the change.

Are you happy with your name? In this picture I look as if I am!


  1. I loathe my first name (but my middle name was also pinched from a great-aunt Louisa and that's fine). My own children came by their names oddly. The eldest was easy - he had to be a clone of Daddy (what is it about men and their names?). The second one, my daughter, was going to be a Sarah but, when born, didn't look like a Sarah and so received an instant re-name. Number three was going to share Grandad's name but when he was born (maybe it was the drugs?) I thought he looked a bit Jewish and so he became a Daniel. Or it could be what I have always told him - that he was called after an Elton John song!

  2. I dislike my name of Pauline and wished that I'd changed my name to my middle name of Ruth.
    Our 1st daughter was Laura Naomi and when she died at 13 days old I was sad that we couldn't use her name again. My 2nd daughter was called Mara as Naomi had changed her name to Mara in the book of Ruth. It said to mean "bitter" however it also means "long wished for child". And actually Naomi wasn't bitter she carried on trusting in God!