Your Name: The Unopened Gift?

Can your given name enrich your sense of identity?

Posted Jan 10, 2012


Because human history has been one of constant migration, most names can be traced through different countries and cultures. Many "American" names, like Abigail, Mary, Elizabeth, Paul. Timothy, and John, are in the Bible. As the Bible circulated across the globe, so did the names, which acquired historical and literary dimensions in every country they passed through. Creating a list of interesting people with your name opens up the vast possibilities life has to offer-many of which you would never contemplate if you didn't do a little searching. You will discover artists, scientists, authors, musicians, and a host of jobs you may never have heard of. Because Indo-European unites culture and history stretching from India to California, you can begin a quest that will grow with you as long as you wish. For example, John is the name of numerous saints, emperors, and kings. Pick an English, French, or Italian leader from the past and discover some "new" history: King John of England (Why only one English King John?), King John "the Good" of France. U.S. Presidents? John and John Q. Adams, John Tyler, John Kennedy. Prefer a novel? Try John O'Hara, John Steinbeck, or John Irving. Poetry? John Keats, John Ashbery, Johannes Anyuru. Rock music? Jon Anderson. Science? John Wilbanks, John Seinfeld, John L. Riddell, John Heuser. Just google "famous+ rock musicians" or whatever subject you want to explore (Since children love collecting namesakes of different times and talents, this is a great way for kids to discover a host of new namesakes and interests.)

To put things in perspective for the New Year, type your name into a time graph to see how your name has waxed and waned in popularity since the 1880's at Baby Name Wizard (http://babynamewizard.com/voyager). No matter how popular or unpopular you name is, it's not permanent because "nothing stays the same." Despite waxing and waning like the moon, your name is part of an ongoing history. The more you know about it, the richer your life will be. If you have a "made-up" name, find out why your parents wanted you to have a unique name, what associations the name has for them, and go from there. To energize your name even more, turn it into an allegory-let each letter of your name symbolize different dimensions of your life- psychological, social, environmental, and spiritual-as a reminder to keep balance in your life. (e.g.. J could stand for "joy" or "judgment." A for "achieve," "amend," "artistic," "ascertain"- whatever qualities you want to develop; and so on.) Once you have done this, you have primed yourself to think about your identity in these ways.

Our name is one of the greatest gifts we receive in life. Don't forget to open that gift, discover it, and make the most of it. It will inspire you in ways you never imagined.