What’s In a Name?

I love words.

I see words in my head, and they have meaning.  I am thankful for a mother who loved to read and loved to go to the library. I do not remember a time in my life without reading and without words. I am one of those weird people who needs to have the appropriate your (possessive) or you’re (you are) and its (possessive) or it’s (it is) used in order to truly understand the meaning of a sentence.

Because of this, the spellings of names has always fascinated me. How something is spelled informs me of that word’s meaning.  In the same way, how a name is spelled informs of that person.  Stacy, Staci, and Stacey are three different people. I am Stacy, by the way. When people spell my name incorrectly, through little fault of their own given the numerous ways that my name can be spelled, I get confused.

Names are important.

The first parenting task that I had was to choose names for each of my children. At twenty-one years of age, I do not think that I understand the weight of this responsibility. A name is not something that one easily changes, yet it carries so much importance in shaping who we are. Even nicknames or variations of our names are important as we grow in adults. Our Elizabeth has become Beth which is what we intended as her nickname.  Alternatively, our Josiah has become Siah because Beth did not call him Josiah or JC, the nickname that we had endorsed.

The number one name to grant children from 1970 to 1984 was “Jennifer.” In my high school graduating class, there were at least five students whose given name was Jennifer. My bff in junior high was named Jennifer. She accepted “Jen” as a nickname, but she wholeheartedly rejected “Jenny.”  I remember a guy in our youth group used to call her “nifer” or even “fer” just to get a rise out of her.

It worked.

I have a current friend named Jennifer (we call her Jen…not Jenny! and only Jennifer when we need to get her attention) with whom we now attend church.  Her third child’s name is Barak (bear-ick), based on a great warrior in the Bible.  He was born in 2004 and was around 4 or 5 during the election time of Barack Obama.  Believe me, his parents had no intention of naming their son after this president!  At preschool, kids would get his name wrong, and wow – that bothered Barak!  It bothered his parents as well.  His name is Barak, not Barack.  This is who he is; it identifies him.

With a name like Jennifer, Jen has taken a serious great care in selecting each of children’s names.  A little over two years ago, Jen and her husband adopted a little girl from China. They had “logged in” to the Chinese adoption system just as things slowed down across the Pacific in child placements. We think it had to do with China attempting to change the world’s perception about the number of children available for adoption. What they do not realize is that slowing down the placement of children does not change the number of children available for adoption. The children are now just staying in orphanages for a longer period of time. Sad, really sad.

Anyway – I digress…

Because of the placement slow-down, Jen and Todd had a much longer wait than they had originally anticipated.  As each day passed, we waited with them. It was like an elephant’s gestation period. How agonizing for them! And yet, we prayed with them and trusted that this slow down meant God’s hand in the right little girl coming to live with their family. And seeing her with them now, it is so true! I cannot imagine another little girl joining their family. She is 100% their child; there is no doubt about it.

During this long gestation period, Jen and Todd had the opportunity to choose and to question their name choice. At the time that they chose her name – Shiloh – Brad and Angelina adopted and named a child Shiloh as well. With a name like Jennifer, this caused an issue for Jen! Some of the factors that influences the popularity of a name are the names of celebrities and the names of their children.  For example, the name “Jennifer” gained popularity after Love Story came out with a character named Jenny.

Although the fact that Brad and Angelina’s naming of their Shiloh almost seals the deal that Jen’s Shiloh will have other Shilohs in her graduating class, I am so glad that they did not change her name.  As much as she is 100% their child, she is also 100% Shiloh.  When you ask her what her name is, she answers in this sweet little voice – “Shiloh” – along with her last name.  And that is her name.  It is who she is.

The interesting thing about names is this: they define us, and they tell us to whom we belong.  This is so important to each of us as we make our way through life and struggle with those two basic questions: who am I?  And to whom do I belong?

Say your name out loud…and then you will know the answer to those questions.  I am Stacy Bender, and I approve this message.  🙂


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3 responses to “What’s In a Name?

  1. Kari N

    Oh my gosh, thank you! I’m not the only one who sees words in my head! And here my mom thought I was crazy. (She said she wished you were here watching me read this right now, because I was so excited by that second sentence and the paragraph about name spellings.)
    My view of a person is totally thrown off if I find out that someone’s name is spelled differently than I had thought. When I see my own name spelled incorrectly (which is bound to happen), I look at it and think, “That’s not my identity. That’s not who I am.”
    Names are very important. I’m opinionated to begin with, but when it comes to names, heavenly days, don’t ask me unless you want the truth. And yes, I say the truth. Because when it comes to names, I’m always right. 😉


  2. “Toni” To name a girl child this in the late 1950’s was a gutsy thing to do! I had MANY Debbie’s, Linda’s and Donna’s in my classes. My mom and dad did this to me and I had mixed feelings about it growing up.
    First it was just my name…yes who I was and proud that I was named for my dad, although he spelled his “TonY”.

    There were 3 boys born before me and when I heard the remark that my parents must have wanted another BOY I was truly insulted!
    My mom tells the story that she was “saving” this name for her first daughter and told her very Italian husband this.

    Initially in elementary school I hated the name. It is so easy to make fun of the name by rhyming it. Often I heard “Toni bologna (baloney) rides a pony and eats macaroni”.
    I “treed” Frank(a classmate) one day until he promised to stop !

    When entering a catholic school in junior high the nun made me bring in my Baptismal certificate to prove that a priest would actually baptize a girl Toni!

    In high school it became a “cool” name as it was different and accepted. When taking attendance if a teacher made the mistake and called for “MR.” D’Ambra I freshly 😦 corrected him/her: “that’s MISS D’Ambra!”

    I know I heard of other female Toni’s being out there as I was growing up but I think I was out of college before I actually met one!

    When my son was 5 years old he was very used to my name and commented one day after the paper boy, Tony, left our paper: “Isn’t it funny mom, our paper boy has a girls name!” Gotta love that boy!


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