Saturday, April 6, 2013

What's in a Name?

At Easter services, we enjoyed a parade of banners bearing different names for Jesus. If you think about it, many names are used in the Bible…Lord, Redeemer, Savior, Christ, The Word, Alpha and Omega…just to name a few.

During the sermon, Pastor Jim mentioned that according to the census, the most common women’s names are Mary, Patricia, and Linda. I really didn’t need the census to know Linda is a common name, especially for those of us born in the Fifties and early Sixties. I went to a small school and throughout all my school years, our class had five girls named Linda. One year, to avoid confusion, the teacher called all five of us by our middle names.

“Why did you name me Linda?” I asked my mom.

“Because it’s such a beautiful name, and I never knew anyone named Linda,” she said. Well, there must have been a lot of mommas with the same mindset.

If there was one thing I hated worse than my first name, it was my middle name. That probably came from my brothers making fun of my middle name, Sue, since it sounded similar to how the hogs were called. I’m not kidding about that.

I have a friend that I’ve known for forty years that calls me Linda Lou. The funny thing is that I’m positive he really thinks that is my name. I’ve never told him any different, and now his wife calls me Linda Lou.

“Why didn’t you name me Ellen?” I asked my mom—many, many times. I wouldn’t have even minded Linda Ellen because I would have used my middle name for sure. My mom and grandmother shared the middle name Ellen, and I loved that name. I envied that name. Neither of them used it anymore than I used my middle name.

They say a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet, but when it comes to human nature, our names can have an effect on our lives. Johnny Cash sang a song about a “Boy named Sue” and the hardships that created on a boy growing up with a girl’s name. Of course, his dad name him Sue so that he would grow up tough. And, at least in the song, the name choice made a difference.

Some people’s names are immortalized when a disease is named after them, including several that affect the brain. Alzheimer’s is named after Alois Alzheimer who discovered the plaques and tangles that are the hallmarks of the disease. Another dementia, Pick’s disease is named after Arnold Pick, a professor of psychiatry from Prague, who first described the disease. Lewy Body dementia is named after a German scientist Friederich Lewy, who studied at the Alois Alzheimer’s laboratory in Munich. Hans Creutzfieldt and Alfons Jakob studied at the same laboratory during the time Pick was there. They, of course, were the first to describe Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is so hard to pronounce that it is known as CJD or “mad cow disease.” Down’s syndrome is named after John Landon Down. About 25% or more of individuals with Down’s syndrome will develop Alzheimer’s after the age of thirty-five.

Most of us will never have anything named after us, other than maybe our descendents. You never hear of any babies named Linda anymore. In fact, if you wanted a girl born this year to have a name different from her classmates, you would be safe with Linda. I’m thinking that by the time we have great-grandchildren the name will make a comeback. It will be such an old name that it will come back in style.

My name was common, and I didn’t have to worry about people misspelling or mispronouncing it. When you see some of the unusual names, with unusual spellings, pronunciation can have your tongue turned upside down. What does that do to a person’s psyche to have their name pronounced wrong by every stranger they meet?

What about people who have names so silly that they are taunted by other children? Sometimes you wonder what people were thinking when they named a defenseless child something so ridiculous.

Names of places, people, and things can immediately create mental images in our minds. Whether a name is unusual or common, it identifies you to those who know you. When your family and friends hear your name, they immediately make a connection to the unique and special person you are.

Copyright April 2013 by L.S. Fisher 
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