That’s Not My Name

jimThis morning I got a  present from my brother and soon to be sister-in-law, (woopwoop!) It’s a little bag with a personalised case.  On the cover they write your name, with an explanation of its meaning. So if I was called Michael it would be: ‘Noble Warrior’.  Or if I was a Jenny, it would be ‘Giver of Hope’.

My parents planned to call me Matthew, but it didn’t work out.  Which means there’s no wriggling away from ‘Emma’.This is unfortunate, as the meaning, (according to Mr Bag)  is ‘Principled and Confident’.

Previously I’ve been told that ‘Emma’ means ‘Universal.’ When translated into Mongolian, it’s ‘Genghis.’ (As in “Genghis Khan” – “Universal King. And er- psychopath). I’m happy to let ‘Genghy’ go. But the Bag Guild’s interpretation isn’t much of an improvement.  “Principled and Confident”  is just a synonym for “Moralizing” and “Bossy”.  And Nobody wants to sit with Rules McShouty.

So I start plotting alternatives. ‘Godly But Fun With It’. ”Good In A Crisis, Ferociously Intelligent and Kind to Animals’, ‘Naturally Sporty”.  Or, at a pinch, ‘Tall’.

I like these tags.  But they’re not really me. “Principled and Confident” has a (faint) ring of truth – but I bristle at the pigeon-holing. Sorry to jump up and down, but it’s the principle of the thing.

Is it true that names are more than labels?

Katie Hopkins certainly thinks so. Two weeks ago, she had a rant against the names parents give their children:

I don’t agree that you can tell a child by the name their parents gave them. Discriminating on this basis is snobbish and damaging, (oddly enough, more for Hopkins’ children than the others).

That said: when other people confirm our names. When they say “Yes, you are Principled. You are Confident. You are a Warrior” we find ourselves living up to the label.  And we find dark sides to those traits – ‘moralizing, bossy, spoiling for a fight.’  

I return to my bag and resist the urge to reword it.  Perhaps a better way is this: receive the name, celebrate what’s good about it, confess the dark side, and return to Christ whose new name for us rings out of Isaiah 62: “My Delight Is In Her.”

His delight is in me – even when I’m ranting and moralising. He knows my name and He redeems it too.

How about you: does your character reflect your name?




8 thoughts on “That’s Not My Name

  1. Julie is either “youthful” (so far, so good, but perhaps time limited) or “graceful” (the very idea makes me snort with laughter, which tells you everything you need to know.)
    Names can be very important: if you adopt in the UK you are strenuously advised not to change the child’s name because it’s often all they have from their birth family. Not sure about nominative determinism though… Mind you, New Scientist had a long running debate about it in their Feedback section; a particular favourite of mine was Terry Bull, builder.

  2. Love it. My dad’s old secretary was (I kid you not), Hazel Nutt. (Unless he lied to me. Which is also possible)..

  3. Nicola means “Victory of the people” apparently – as someone with DID who has survived ritual abuse that seems pretty apt to me!

  4. Elizabeth means “God is Faithful”. The story behind it is that mum was really struggling with lots of issues when I was born – so she saw me as proof of God’s faithfulness. I used to absolutely hate it – it’s long, it takes forever and ever to write – and as a kid, I thought God was anything but faithful! It’s really grown on me now though – I don’t use the full version, but in the darkest of times, it reminds me that God is faithful, and that faithfulness somehow covers my sin, shame and despair. If that makes any sense?

  5. Nicky and Lizzi: it’s fascinating how appropriate these names are. And Lizzi – makes a lot of sense.

  6. I’ve seen some different versions for me. My first name can mean “small and womanly”… I am short and round and have a passel of kids so… I’ll take it.

    Also “song of joy” this one’s a bit of a stretch, so…maybe in heaven.

    My middle name is right on : “bitter”. Maiden name means “crooked mouth” (as in liar) and my married name means “shorn” as in clergy.

    So: I’m a small bitter lying preachy woman…perfect fit!!

  7. My names both mean beautiful…i totally believe God inspired that…but I’m still coming round to the idea…ok- definitely, beautiful-not so sure!

  8. (So far) I’ve come across 3 variations on the meaning of my name: God’s gift, God’s mercy and God’s merciful gift. I’m not convinced I ever live up to any of them but I’m also strangely comfortable with them. I guess I view the meaning of my name as a gift in itself, I may not feel I fulfil it but it is a beautiful thing to aspire to being.

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