What is in a name? Does a name have any intrinsic value? Probably not, not in our culture here in the United States.
Oh I know, moms and dads “to be” pour over name books looking for just the right one for a little girl or a little boy. In those books, they sometimes give the meaning of the name.
Generally though, most parents pick a name because it is one that they like or maybe it has been a family name for years. My name, Bradley, was my mother’s maiden name. My wife and I had three girls and to my last daughter, I gave the name Bradley spelled Bradlee.
When my friends and I were kids, we had various nicknames, usually depending on what we were doing at the time. According to the Encarta English Dictionary a nickname is an invented name for somebody or something used humorously or affectionately instead of the real name and usually based on a conspicuous characteristic of the person or thing involved. Or it could just be a shortened or altered form of a name, like “Billy” for “William” or “Peggy” for “Margaret”.
When I was growing up, from time to time, the “neighborhood gang” which was not like gangs today but more like the old movie and TV series “Spanky and Our Gang,” would choose nicknames. Now there is a name for you, Spanky.
I guess he should have been spanked a lot for all the mischief he and the gang got into, huh? We had a Squirrel, a Fox, a Turkey, a Lizard, a Rabbit, etc.
These were never intended to be our real names. They were just names that we chose among ourselves for certain qualities that we thought we saw in ourselves and in each other. The nickname of two of my friends, both of who had the real name of Randy, stuck to them. They were Squirrel and Turkey, which later became Turk.
Most of us growing up then had over the course of the years several nicknames, usually based on some event or action that we had done or were involved in at the time.
Once we all built “go-karts”, the kind hammered together out of scrap lumber, not the modern kind, which are prefabricated and come with an engine. Our engine was gravity on a long hill. We had races, and we chose names then based on popular racecar drivers at the time. I was “Fireball Roberts.”
Today, people end up with nicknames just the same. Either one ascribed to them by family or friends, or one fabricated on their own because they may have felt that their own real name lacked some excitement or something.
Johnny Cash propagated one of the most famous names of this type in his song, “A Boy Named Sue.”
Once names had meanings that denoted a certain quality or a desire for a certain quality that the parent wished for their child.
The Bible is filled with examples of this. Many times these meanings have to be understood from the verses themselves, because the translators would use a consistent name for translation, i.e. Lord, or the Lord. The various Jehovah names are an example of this. God the Father as well as Christ both have many names in the Old and the New Testament. Psalms 23 alone demonstrates this to us.
Jehovah-Rohi, my Shepherd. Psalms 23:1, “the Lord is my shepherd.” Jehovah-Jireh, my Provider. Psalms 23:1, “I shall not want.” Jehovah-Shalom, my Peace. Psalms 23:2, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside the still waters.” Jehovah-Ropheka, our Physician. Psalms 23:3, “ He restoreth my soul.” Jehovah-Tsidkenu, the Lord is Righteousness. Psalms 23:3, “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Jehova-Nissi, the Lord our Banner. Psalms 23:5, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.” (His banner over us is love!) Jehova-M’Kaddesh, the Lord who Anoints. Psalms 23:5, “Thou anointest my head with oil.” Jehovah-Shammal, The Lord is Present. Psalms 23:4, “Thou art with me.”
These are but just a very few examples from the Bible. But what of your name? What does it mean?
I am not an expert on the meaning of names, but I am pretty sure in venturing a guess. I would say that your name means exactly that thing which people think of you when your name is mentioned. Among different groups our name’s meanings could vary widely.
What does your name mean? Ask a friend.
Brad Morris, a retired minister, originally from Georgetown, served as a pastor and then as a missionary in Costa Rica and Ecuador, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He has been in ministry for 50 years and a columnist for 17 years, 12 of which have been for the Times.