The Name Game

Whenever I hear about a new baby, my first question is always "What's his/her name?"  Who cares about weight or length? What are you going to call the kid? That's what I want to know. So naturally I was very interested in what my son and daughter in law would choose for their baby's name, especially given that the child is half American, and half Asian. Would it be a Western name, or one that reflected his/her Eastern heritage? Last month, when the sonogram quite definitely revealed our grandchild's masculinity, the name game began in earnest.  My son revealed that their choice for a first name would reflect the baby's Irish heritage, and that his middle name would be Thai.

While there's a fair percentage of Irish blood in this baby's gene pool, I'm not entirely sure if it's enough to warrant a given name. My husband's ancestry is equal amounts English-Scottish-Irish, while mine is a total mish-mash of Celtic, Germanic, Native American, and Middle-Eastern. So with that combination, plus his pure Asian (Chinese-Thai) background, this little fellow is a huge melting pot of ethnicity  - in other words, he's a true American.

But I'm all for Irish names whatever your background.  After all, my own son has the most popular Irish name on all the lists - Brian, for Brian Boru, the first King of Ireland,  a mighty warrior.  The name "Brian" means "strong," and coupled with his middle name, James (which means "beloved"), we felt as if we blessed him with a good and appropriate combination.  My husband and I dithered a good bit with boys names before we settled on "Brian," but all our choices were very traditional - Daniel, Matthew, and Timothy were some of the other names in the running. Oddly enough, we had a baby girl's name all picked out before we were even married - Margaret Allison - to be called "Allison", with the "Margaret" being in honor of our piano teacher who introduced us to one another.

The Irish have a traditional pattern for naming their children - the first born son is named for the paternal father, the second for the maternal father, the third for the father, the fourth for the father's eldest brother, the fifth for the mother's eldest brother...and God help us if we ever get this far down the line.  The naming for girls follows the same pattern.  Most modern parents prefer to choose their own unique name for their offspring, and we weren't expecting our kids to follow tradition down to that letter.

Names get invested with a lot of emotion and promise.  Sometimes we name our children to remind us of people who have been important in our lives.  Other times we give them names that we hope they will live up to, or names that we feel might even protect them from harm.  In Judaism, a name is the "definition of an individual - a description of his personality and a definition of his traits." This culture believes there is a spiritual connection between the name of an individual and his soul. According to the Midrash (Tanchuma Ha'azinu 7): One should always be careful to choose for his child a name that denotes righteousness, for at times the name itself can be an influence for good or an influence for bad. The name given to a newborn child is eternal; it behooves one to evaluate the choice carefully."

Names can be sacred, but they can also be completely ill-advised - I know a man whose name is Richard Dick, and can only imagine the teasing he took at school.  And how about that race car driver named Dick Trickle?  Wouldn't you think with a last name like "Trickle" that you'd be extremely careful about your boy's first name?

There are no worries in that department in our family.  Our grandson's name is Connor, an honorable, strong sounding name, one that will serve him well for his entire life.  I've looked at various etymologies of the name, and most of them define it as "strong willed or "wise," both definitely denoting righteousness. It also means "lover of hounds," so there could be another dog lover coming into the family. Best of all, the symbolic name for Connor in Japanese Kanji characters is "vast" and "fortune."  

But the suspense regarding names is not over yet. Connor's middle name will be chosen by his grandmother in Thailand, based on their tradition of choosing from names which are associated with the day of the week on which a child is born. So we'll have to wait until November to find out how the name game ends.

How about you? Does your name have a special meaning for you or your family?