Names As History

No person alive to the importance of tradition needs to reminded that names are important. My patron (still unsainted) saint, JRR Tolkein, knew it better than anyone! Nevertheless, in our modern world of radical deracination, I find it’s often worthwhile to dwell on names right in the middle of daily doings.

People like to name their children odd things these days. Black people give their children odd names like Lemonjello or Dante’us (sic). While white people pick equally odd names like Bean or Mackenzie (for a girl) or Seven. If I’m ever blessed enough to have children of my own, and of course, my future wife willing, I’ll name my children after my father, myself, my grandfather, my mother, my grandmother, and my sisters. Easy peasy. Optional other names would be names from her family, of course. I’m very flexible. There are at least a dozen names I would consider!

I do not mean to mock, but it’s undeniably silly how the same people that yearn hardest for “unique” names end up with the same names as every other parent. The current, easy-to-mock name is Aiden (what?), along with it’s near homonyms, Jayden, Braden, Hayden, Zayden etc, along with all the various spelling permutations thereon (Jaydon, Jaden, Jaiden, Jaedon, etc). Again, I don’t intend to mock these people. But, on the other hand, if you were to show me a single such parent, who chose the name Jaedyn for their son and thereafter claimed he did it because he wanted a traditional name, I would with supreme confidence call you a liar.

These names are designer names. Blacks do it one way, whites another. There’s a joke from the Onion joke newspaper, way back from the 90’s (you know, the olden times, the 1900’s), that says “What are we naming our children?” It has a response for whites, with names like “Apple”; a response for blacks, with names like “Propecia”; and a response for Asians, with names like “Michael” and “Alice.”

Names are a measure of desire. Of course, strange African names are the result of a kind of faux re-Africanization that USA blacks went through in the 70’s and 80’s (and still to this day, of course). The idea was to give your proud Nubian prince/princess a name that wasn’t a white name. So out with the Davids and the Roberts and in with the D’Quantaes and the LaDainiains. (I did not make those names up, for the record.) My point is that USA blacks were deliberately trying to defy white tradition with these names. And, one must admit that, however absurd the results, they succeeded.

But USA whites have done the same thing, only at a higher income level. A name like Frashonda is out of the question for white couples. But a name like Aiden is totally acceptable. More than acceptable: it’s practically de rigeur for a middle-upper class white couple. Also popular are old-timey-sounding name which actually have no history behind them, like Zoey or Max or Jackson. If the child’s grandmother is really named Zoe, then bully for those parents. Somehow I doubt that’s often the case.

The overwhelming need, for both blacks and whites, is to reject history, to make each child a one-off, unique creation. It’s a fundamentally liberal desire. Some parents will say, “Oh, we just thought it was a beautiful name.” And that’s hard to argue with. After all, it’s their child, not yours. Still, there’s a lie lurking under their protestations of innocence.

A truly radical name these days is to call your son Junior. As in Henry Jones Jr. Those of you without children, try this one out on your friends when the topic of baby names comes up. Watch the bristling that results! The embrace of tradition in a “junior” name is so unmistakeable that the average contemporary liberal is simply flabbergasted to hear it. “What!? You don’t hate yourself??? You don’t wish to wash away history by naming your son Addison???”

[And of course names change over time. Our modern spellings of classic names like Joshua, Michael, and Christopher are not eternal spellings. And Jesus is a strange name in English while it’s a common name in Spanish. So obviously, cultural norms apply. And there was a time long ago that John was a radical thing to call your son. (You called him John when your neighbors were naming their sons Publius or Justinian.) But people did such things for very heartfelt reasons, not because they were interested in gaining status through innovative naming techniques!]

My own name is Daniel. I am quite sure I don’t pronounce it the way the Jews in Babylon did. Obviously: I don’t even use the same alphabet to write it! But it’s a name with a history, and my parents knew that history when they named me Daniel. On the one hand they liked how it sounded and considered it a manly and yet versatile name (Dan, Danny, and Daniel all having different tones to them) And on the other hand, they knew the story of Daniel from the Bible, and knew he was a prophet of dreams and a man whose faith lasted him through his ordeal in the lion’s den. Classic enough to never be misspelled and yet slightly more rare than John or Michael. Like most people I have dreamed about having a new name (Jack was always my favorite as a teenager… after the whiskey, the beat poet, and my own grandfather). But I’m very grateful to have a name with roots that go back farther than the style of the day.

Tradition is radical these days. Be a radical! Name your son John, and your daughter Mary! Or if you are not a Christian, name your son Augustus or Arthur and your daughter Erin. Or if you are not European, name them Krishna or Hui-neng.

Or if you must choose Addison, do so with the full knowledge that you are signaling to your own child that he must, at all costs, reject his own history and that of his own people.

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4 comments on “Names As History

  1. bgc says:

    Interestingly Aiden is one of the ajor Saints in this part of the world

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aidan_of_Lindisfarne

    And many public buildings and institutions are named after him – as a personal name it has a traditional Roman Catholic association.

    When naming kids I think the trick is to have 1. a meaningful name (preferably with family tradition behind it) that is 2. uncommon enough that the child is the only one with that name in their class (and maybe in their school) – but 3. still a name everybody has heard about and knows how to spell.

  2. Manwe says:

    Some comments of mine:

    St. JRR Tolkien, I like the sound of that! 😀
    Now how to get his cause under way?

    Other odd names I have heard today: Uniqua, Jermichael, Shaniqua (I’m not sure if I spelled that one right). They were black names I think.

    “As in Henry Jones Jr.”
    But he prefers Indiana!
    To which his dad responds “we named the dog Indiana!”

    As for my kids, I plan on giving them good names, rooted in history, like Anastasia, or Constantine, and if I really wanted to throw it out there…maybe even a Leonidas, or Belisarius! 😉

    As for Aiden, that is actually an old name, and the name of a Saint if I am not mistaken.

    “Or if you are not a Christian, name your son Augustus or Arthur and your daughter Erin.”
    Actually there have been many Christians with those names, many pre-Christian European names kind of got baptised into Christianity. For example, when someone in the Catholic Church becomes confirmed (and thus gets a confirmation name), the only requirment is that it is taken from a saint. Considering there are over 10,000 saints in the RC Church, you have plenty to choose from! 🙂 There are several saints named Augustus for example.

    All in all, very nice post! I agree with you, the names chosen to defy tradition, are without gravitas.

    • outofsleep says:

      Regarding Aiden, Augustus, Arthur, etc. Those are names of Christians, too, I do know. They just aren’t as Biblically central as a name like Mary.

      It’s amazing how many Aidens there suddenly are. I doubt it’s due to a resurgence in reverence for the saint.

      I was wondering if anyone would get the Indiana reference! That always makes me smile.

      • Manwe says:

        “It’s amazing how many Aidens there suddenly are. I doubt it’s due to a resurgence in reverence for the saint.”
        Oh yes, I’m sure it’s not out of reverence!

        “I was wondering if anyone would get the Indiana reference! That always makes me smile.”
        Got it as soon as I read it! When I was a kid, Indiana Jones was a big staple in our house, especially “The Last Crusade”. I may not be able to quote Shakespeare, but I sure can quote Indiana Jones 😀

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