Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What's in a name? Tons of stuff!

I hated my name almost all my life. Until I wrote a poem about it for a friend's daughter, who hated her name...also Shirley. I learned that my name was chosen for me by my dad, which, now that's he's passed on, really touches my heart. Then, as I practiced the art of writing, I learned that names are very significant to writers, and often chosen for very significant reasons, like their meaning.

For example, in the movie Dead Poet's Society, each character's name means something specific to the character trait that the actor portrays. A very simplified list: Knox Overstreet is the wealthy one: Fort Knox? Dalton, is the rebel or outlaw like the Dalton Brothers. He is the one who always goes just a step too far. Todd Anderson, whose name means the son of the Son of Man – or everyone, represents us all. Neal Perry means to kneel, and kneel suggests submission. Perry (or parry) suggests to fight and is also the root of the word to die. He submits to his controlling father, then defies him, with acting at first, and then in suicide. It is the only choice he has if he wants to remain free. And John Keating? He's named with the derivative of Keates, a romantic poet, and is also a Christ figure (his initials have the sounds of J and K like Jesus Christ) and is the character who sacrifices for the good of all. (He leaves the school but the boys are forever changed.)

See what I mean?

My name, when adding first, middle, maiden, sur- and nick- means: 1. Army, Warrior; 2. a female deer in the bright meadow from the western forest. It's kind of beautiful when I think of it that way, and I've learned to love it.

I remember a meme going around blog world for a while where you Google your first name and see what pops up. Who knew Charlotte Bronte wrote a book named “Shirley”. Of course, I got Shirley Temple, the name I was taunted with all during childhood. Shirley Maclaine popped up as did Shirley Booth who played “Hazel”. You have to be my age or older to remember that one. Also there is a Shirley Plantation in Virginia and a town called Shirley, Massachusetts. Both are now on my bucket list to see.

I named my children after family, but I love the meanings of their names:

Sonja means “wisdom, and clearing”. It fits her. Alice means “noble and kind”. CJ means “camp meadow” (I wonder if his meadow is near my meadow and Sonnie's clearing?) and “God is gracious”. Jake's means “supplanter” and “soul”, significant since he's the one entering rehab today. Elizabeth is “my God is an oath” and “God is gracious”.

I have a lot more kids, and won't name them all here, but names are significant in ways many of us, as parents never understood. Also the next time you watch a movie, try to figure out how their names apply. George means “Of the earth”. Notice how John Travolta gardens and is in touch with the earth in “Phenomenon”. Or how he knows God as an archangel in “Michael”? That's what the name means.

Google your own name. See what comes up. Or leave your name in a comment on this blog and I'll send you the meaning. (It's hard to check surnames but I'll try that too).

I can't wait to learn more about who you are!