Friday, February 19, 2010
The story of a name
Re: the candy heart -- Valentine's Day is past, but I'm still celebrating.
Back in December I wrote a couple of posts about a study I was doing on the concept of blessing in the Bible. I posed this question in the first post: What president's name means blessing? I'm sure most of you have guessed it already. However, since this is black history month, it's a good time for me to post about the answer:
The given name Barack comes from an Arabic word that, according to some, means blessed or blessed one. It is similar to the Hebrew name Baruch and the Latin name Benedict. In Hebrew, the word ברוך (phonetically spelled in English as barakh) means to kneel, bless, or praise.
(As I said before, this is not a political statement about Barack Obama one way or the other; it's just a study of a name.)
Some English speakers pay little attention to the fact that most names in most languages have their roots in words that have some meaning attached to them. We might consider this when reading lists of potential baby names or check out the meaning of our own name once in our lifetime. My name, Elizabeth, for example came into the English language from Hebrew, and it means, "God's promise, or God is my oath."
If we put some thought into it, we can use the names of our children in giving them a vision for who they might become. Of course, when we name a child, we can't foresee all of the choices that child will make. There is no magic in choosing a particular name for our child. However, if we choose a name with an inspiring meaning, we can remind our child of its meaning and pray with our child about its meaning throughout the child's growing up years. Hearing the meaning of his or her name repeated often can help a child to feel secure and special. It can also steer a child toward higher goals.
Take the name, Allegra, for example. It means lively or cheerful in Italian. Wouldn't it cheer you up just to know that your name is associated with vitality and joy, as well as with joyful music?
Some of us are well past naming our children, but we can still probably track down the meaning of the name and find something beautiful in it.
Here's an interesting fact about naming children: Some cultures, like my own Southern U. S. culture, place a high value in passing on the name of a family member to a child. This way of thinking gives a sense of continuity and belonging to a child. If the child happens to know the person for whom he or she is named, the child can understand what good qualities the parents had in mind when they chose that particular name to pass on. In my case, some of the names that are common in my family entered the family so many generations ago that we know very little about some of the original bearers of the names.
There are other cultures in which parents strive to give a child an unusual name that no one else has. Or, they might choose a name after the baby is born and they have a sense of its personality. (I think the second option was more common in the past.) This category of naming gives a child a sense of specialness and individuality.
Of course, there are some people who pick names for their children simply because they like the sound or because they admire someone who has the name or for other various reasons.
No method of choosing a name, imho, is right or wrong. It's a matter of preference. However, it is interesting to think about what your family's practice is and why you might have been named a certain name and why you are (were) drawn to a particular name to give your child.
What about you? What is the meaning of your name?