What’s in a name?

Naming a dog is easy.

When we named our dog, Becket, it was done with no stress and little discussion. We were free to choose from any list of famous people, words, ideas, themes, etc. We could have named him Scruffy, or Alexander, or Fuzzball, or Frank. We could have named him after a famous television dog, or after a favorite book, or after a long lost relative or long deceased pet.

Instead, we named him after a former Archbishop of Canterbury, Sir Thomas a’ Becket, a character that was brutally murdered by Henry II’s henchmen in one of the most fascinating stories in English history.

If only naming a child were so easy.

It struck me tonight as we struggled through another name book: we’re creating a new human. And we’re given the opportunity to name it. And, while it’s easy for large corporations to throw together a focus group in order to find a suitable and representative model name or, easier yet, assign a random code of letters and numbers to a new model, we’re not able to get away with naming our child Vilhauer Junior X-101.

We are responsible for more than just raising and protecting a child. We are charged with creating its identity and devising its moniker. We need to name our baby, and we need to give it a name that’s respected and meaningful. Clever and original, yet not too out of control. Something fun, yet something that won’t be made fun of. We need to give it a first name and middle name that work together, that honor the right people and fit well with our last name.

We have some names picked out. But are they the right ones? The girl name was easy – we both latched onto a beautiful handle quickly in the process, a name that I had always liked and one that Kerrie agreed with.

The boy name; not so easy. We’ve been through thousands of names, throwing the ridiculous ones onto a burn pile and saving some for later review. We’ve narrowed it down to one name that I like (and Kerrie isn’t quite sold on) and several that Kerrie likes (and I’m not quite sold on.)

The difficulty in deciding this name – this future identity – is getting a little weightier. How embarrassing to be nameless, to be sent into the world without that recognizable possession, the first thing you give over to someone and the one you remember the longest.

This name isn’t just for us or for our baby, it’s for everyone our baby meets, everyone we meet. It’s the verbal representation of our child, forever, for as long as it lives, for as long as we live.

After all, even after a person is gone, the name continues to live on.

So what’s in a name that makes it so powerful, anyway?

This was lovingly handwritten on June 19th, 2007