What's in a name...?
Getting dressed this morning I pulled out a t-shirt that belonged to my father when he was on his local tennis team - the Bangor Brumby’s. When I was pregnant with my daughter my husband liked the t-shirt so much he started calling her our little “Brumby”. A Brumby is a wild horse in Australia, so it seemed apt that our little kicking bundle have this nickname. It stuck throughout my pregnancy and continues to pop up every now and then when she is being particularly boisterous.
I was thinking about this, and how names and nicknames come to be, as I prepared our bub to go on a walk around the beautiful historic cemetery just down the street from our home. As we began walking through the cemetery and looking at the names on all the gravestones my thoughts got a little deeper.
When we die, hundreds of years later, all that is left of us in the physical world could be a stone with our name carved into it.
I walked through the many stones saying names aloud - wondering how these people said their own names, how other people might have said their names, what nicknames they might have had that they might have preferred to have as their final, carved in stone, name over their remains. I tried to give the names energy and care, life, significance - because I think if it were my name on the stone, that’s what I would want.
So what’s in a name? What does it represent? What kind of life or identity does our name give us? When I work with clients I often have them explore introducing themselves - and so often people do this with an air of apology! For a lot of people there is little joy in telling others their name - maybe they think it’s too long and complicated, maybe they are self-conscious about an inherited family or traditional name, maybe they just don’t think people will remember - they want to get it over with or they forget that it’s important.
The way you say your name, the first time someone hears it, matters. It can shape their first impressions of you. It can shape the interaction you are having - whether they hear or understand you, whether they have to awkwardly ask you to repeat yourself, whether it lands with enough intent for them to remember it. And that can impact you as much as it impacts the people you speak to, or more.
Our names can represent so much more than just that word our parents chose when we were born that we’ve grown up with and tolerate begrudgingly through our lives. Our name is a piece of history, that may even have a pre-history before we came along. Just like my baby girl’s in utero nickname “Brumby”, which connects not only to her Australian heritage but to her family heritage. Whether you love or hate your name, it has significance.
The way you speak your name gives information to the people you speak to. What do you want people to think when they hear your name? Do you want people to remember it? Would you like to make an impression? You have the power to determine all of these things. It’s in the way you say your name.
As I wandered through the cemetery this morning, looking at gravestones that ranged from full names, to nicknames, to just initials, it struck me that all of these people had names - perhaps they were known by the name on their gravestone, perhaps they were not. But now that they are gone, their name is what’s left behind. Their name is all that’s left in the physical world. That is significant.
The names on some gravestones told the story of a family, some told stories of loneliness, of love lost, of lives gone too soon or long lives lived. But the one thing that all gravestones have in common is someone’s name. So even if “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” - the fact that it is called a “rose” holds meaning, and the rose should say its name proudly and with love and joy and delight - because a rose is beautiful, fragrant, delicate, precious, to be admired, and when there are no roses left on the planet and the books and pictures are all gone, what will be left is the name of the rose, and the stories about the rose, and the idea of the rose.
This really fascinated me today, and I wanted to share it so that we all might remember to have a little more joy in our own names, a little more ownership, a little less apology. Your name is significant - the name you go by tells a story, and may continue to tell a story long after you’re gone. While we are on this planet, we need to enjoy the fact that we have a name, and take the time to speak our names fully and with energy.
Next time you introduce yourself, and from here on until forever, own your name, take the time to say it clearly and with life, let it take center stage. People will hear you differently, they may remember you more easily, but more importantly, you will be owning and experiencing the significance of who you are every time that you speak your name.