What’s in a Name?

At the coffee shop close to Matthew’s house, there is a name analysis book. Not one of those books with a million different names for your baby and a few words about each, but a page long personality profile based on the phoneme sounds that make up your name. Strangely enough, when reading the profile associated with Gillian (which, for the first time ever, was not grouped with Jillian), I found myself identifying with most of it – it was pretty much spot on. Even my middle name was fairly accurate.

This got me to thinking, what is in a name? Did I become my name, that is grow into what I have been named? Or did my parents just do an incredibly insightful job at picking my name because they are possessed with crazy super-powers? (I’ll let Dad comment on that last bit!) But seriously, we get called our names multiple times a day, whether by friends, family, coworkers, people at the store or the doctor’s office, telemarketers, to name a few. How we decide to or not to shorten our name can say many things about us (I will accept Gill as tolerable, but not Gilly, for example). How others refer to us can also say a lot. Remember the rhyme, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me”? They do. I hated it when, as a kid, people called me “Jillian Jiggs” because 1) my room did NOT look like it was lived in by pigs (a periodically messy child, yes, but certainly not pigs) and 2) my name is certainly not spelt with a “J.” (Yes, I was anal about this from a young age!). At work, we sometime chuckle at strange names we come across and wonder about the parents who would bestow that upon their children. A name is a label that you are stuck with your whole life.

Unless you change your name. Like, for example, some famous Bible characters. Jacob comes to mind, Jacob the Deceiver. If anyone would want a name change, it would be someone like him. However, it took wrestling with God to get that name change, whereupon he became known as Israel. Then there was Simon who was renamed Peter or “Rock.”

So what is in a name? Do we become what we are called? Scary but profound implications for all of us and an encouragement to pay attention to what we call each other.

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