Even as a child I had a sense of the privilege and authority in naming. I gave a lot of thought to the naming of my pets. When the same privilege was afforded to my children they knew better than to settle for ‘Fluffy’ or ‘Spot’. Our dog was named ‘Gumption’, and a succession of cats have answered to ‘Cobber’, ‘Gypsy’, ‘Yum Yum’, ‘Miss Moneypenny’, ‘Boris’ and ‘Gellis’, to name just a few. When I learnt from scripture that God the creator gave naming rights to human beings, I understood why it has always been important to me.
It was Shakespeare who said a rose’s perfume would be stunning regardless of the name given it. He’s right of course. But does the same maxim apply to personal names? I have just finished reading a book that suggests the inherent meaning of our name is not always reflected in our lives; that a mangling of meaning over time plus interference in our emotional and spiritual backgrounds can result in a schism between identity and destiny.
I spent a lot of time searching for the meaning of my own name, consulting dozens of name books without success over the years. I could never quite accept that a red-headed actress beloved of my mother, an avid film buff, was the rationale for my own name. In retrospect, I can only be grateful I wasn’t the son my parents hoped for. In recent years I have located well-researched name meanings – thank the Lord for Google, I say - and am amazed at how apt both my given names are. But my husband’s name is an example of how the original, and accurate, meaning can be corrupted over time. There is no way he fits the ‘usurper, deceiver’ tag usually attached to ‘James’ in the mistaken belief that it comes from ‘Jacob’. No, James belongs to ‘Jamin’, as in ‘my right hand’, with connotations of integrity, reliability and aptitude as a great second in command.
God’s Poetry, written by mathematician and dedicated researcher, Anne Hamilton, persuades me that our names are gifts embodying a divine destiny. It is a notion that sits comfortably with me.