On Names

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.” (William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet)

Names are an identity … and like it or not, we’re stuck with a name

Names come in many forms … There are personal names, first names, middle names, last names, birth names, forenames, given name, family name, nickname, place name, maiden name, married name, nickname, byname, code name, pen name, stage name, scientific name, surname

Synonyms include pseudonym, cognomen, anthroponym, autonym, nomen patronym, eponym, sobriquet, appellation, epithet, moniker, hypocorism, agnomen, alias, cover, moniker, toponym, designation, eponym, denomination, handle

Names can signify a heritage … such as my family tree includes Andrea, Basilio, Elisa, Gemma, Gino, Ida, Livio, Guido, Rita, Rosanna, Rosetta, Olvidio, Teresa, Torido, Verdiana, Vidia, and others .. but outside of family, I know very few people with any of these names

Names can be a connection to someone – a family member, a friend, a significant figure from the parent’s past, or someone popular at the time

Names have meaning, such as Frank means honest

Names are linked to a time, so we don’t meet many named Hazel, Bertha, Gertrude, Fred, George, Walter, or even Frank

Names carry power and reputation … in both a positive and negative sense

Names carry responsibility


What’s in your name? Who are you named after? What does your name mean?

Thanks for the music inspiring this post

87 thoughts on “On Names

  1. D’oh! I hate it when “This video contains content from SME, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.”

    Sorry…I was named after the actor Dale Robertson. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dale_Robertson He was quite the handsome dude in his youth!
    My mother was 16 and he was her “George Clooney” (or whichever actor floats your boat) and she had decided then and there that first kid she had, boy or girl was going to be called Dale…

    My name means valley “O’er hill, o’er dale…”

    Ironically, my husband’s real name was Blair and not Mick (he hated his birth name as he said it was a girl’s name… all the Blairs I’ve ever heard of were men but hey… This is funny because we would often get things addressed to: Mr. Dale and Mrs. Blair!

    I was very careful to name my boys “real” boys’ names: Austin, Iain and Aidan. Then one day, while watching CSI New York, some chick character showed up named…. Aidan. Sigh…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dale,
      I remember Dale Robertson … loved the Tales of Wells Fargo! You got me thinking about Blair, and my experience is more recognition with females than males, but still both. Then again, Dale can go either way as well … include Dayle, which is unquestionably female.

      Many thanks for sharing your family’s story!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As a kid, I hated my first name. Substitute teachers messed up the pronunciation faithfully. Nobody spelled it right. Nobody else was named Elyse — pronounced A-Lease. They misspelled to. Folks pronounced it EEEEEEEEE-Lease. It drove me crazy.

    But somewhere along the line, I came to like it. I’m named after my great aunt, a nurse who served among the first international Red Cross nurses in WWI. A seriously cool woman I am honored to be named for.

    Who are you named for?


  3. I am named for… nothing. I think perhaps that we’re not necessarily stuck with a name… in the digital world, it seems like we can make identities, embody them, characterize them… and off we go. “Trent Lewin” is a name. It’s very little more than that. Just a name. Three syllables. Sort of British because that’s what I am. Ill-fitting as a member of the Big Red Machine or something like that. A wannabe baseball player name that instead stuck to textbooks and scrawled itself in the margins, until the scrawling cramped together and… a name was born. Some names are just plain. Some names are just plain made up.


  4. My name was apparently chosen because my father had never dated a Catherine, not very original. Our eldest was named after my Grandmother, who was named after the Catholic Saint listed on the Catholic calendar. Middle child was named after my great aunt, my grandmother’s sister, two of my most favorite people. Our son’s name was chosen after many lists my husband and I made but then had to convince my great aunt that he was named after Moses’s brother because she felt the name wasn’t “Catholic” enough. She wanted me to change his name. I hope our daughter’s pass their names on because I not only think they are beautiful, they are timeless and original.


    • Catherine,
      Cheers to your originality with your kids. Loved the info about not being Catholic enough. Then again, the line about someone your dad didn’t date got the biggest roar! Thanks you sharing.


  5. I was named after my mother’s favorite aunt, Frank. She died when I was three, so I never really knew her. I forgot all about that Billy Joel song! Wikipedia gave it a lot of ink, but this is my favorite fun factoid about it:

    Blender magazine ranked “We Didn’t Start the Fire” No. 41 on its list of the “50 Worst Songs Ever”, a list that also includes songs from Paul McCartney and Simon & Garfunkel. They considered the production bombastic and stated that the song “resembles a term paper scribbled the night before it’s due.”


    • Lame,
      Another aunt, but not a great aunt. Too bad you never really knew her.

      Although I like the Billy Joel song, but it’s definitely not one of the worst … but I love there term-paper analogy. Then again, like/dislike is any of the arts is a matter of opinion & personal taste.


      • She was my great aunt but she died relatively young in a tragic accident, why I never got to know her. She adored my brother, Axel, who was 9 when she bought her rainbow. When Dad died last summet, Axel was all for unloading everything in the house. I told him to look in a cabinet for an ancient, battered dictionary. Inside tbe front cover he’ll see that she signed it in flowing script. He found that dictionary and kept it. We hung onto all the sentimental stuff.


  6. My name is an alternative of the Greek goddess Diana who dwelt on Mount Cynthus. Where my mother got it, I’ll never know, because none of the French and Irish relatives could pronounce the sound of “th” and so they called. me all kinds of things. Then, too, there was the nun at school who had us thinking about our patron saints…easy enough for Mary, Theresa, John, and Paul, but there is no saint Cynthia–a pagan name, after all–so I was the only kid in the class with no patron saint. So much for early lessons in being an outsider. I’m happy to say I. finally did learn to like my name. The. name is not the person, place or thing….the map is not the territory…..
    Enjoyed the oldie but goodie videos….


  7. Pauline is not my first name. My mother had a penchant for naming her children with the name she intended to call them by in the middle and some other weird noun placed at the front – usually gleaned from whatever current two-penny novel she was engaged in at the time. It led to many humiliating occasions as a tween that took years of therapy to overcome for myself and all my siblings who were also blessed by the same curious naming habit! 🙂

    Pauline is self explanatory ‘Little Paul’ or the feminine of Paul. Paula, Paulette, Paulina, Paolo any of these would have been preferable to me, even today. I am constantly referred to as Poor-Lean which I find quite odd, especially as I am neither poor nor lean. Luckily I am not too attached to any of what I have written – a rose by any other name and all that! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is wonderful writing about names… You reminded me something very special in my life. My real name was given by my Dad. When he was a young man, one of poem impressed him so much and he told himself, If he had a daughter one day, he would give a name of this poem. And yes, I was born… My name actually comes originally from persian language but in my nature language we have so many words in persian and ottoman and arabic, even french and english too. Thank you dear Frank, have a nice day, love, nia


  9. Marina – Artemis.
    First one means ‘of the sea’ – and yes, my connection to the sea is very strong!
    Artemis was the goddess of hunting [Diana] in ancient Greece and the name of my grandma, but I don’t use it.
    As for the last that’s the name the Cretans gave to the Irish pirate who decided to make Crete his home, married a Cretan woman and made a living out of making baskets with sweet grass which is called ‘kanavi’ hence: Kanavaki! [he is believed to be the first of my family tree].
    Did you know that your name means FREE?!!!
    and here’s a little info I read about ‘Frank’:
    SoulUrge Number: 1
    People with this name have a deep inner desire to use their abilities in leadership, and to have personal independence. They would rather focus on large, important issues, and delegate the details.
    Expression Number: 5
    People with this name are excited by change, adventure, and excitement. They are dynamic, visionary and versatile, able to make constructive use of freedom. They fight being restricted by rules and conventions. They tend to be optimistic, energetic, intelligent, and to make friends easily. They may be changeable, restless, untidy, and rebellious.


    • Marina,
      Your name being linked to the sea is obvious, but I appreciate the other information about your middle and last name … especially the last name, which is fascinating! Many thanks for sharing.

      Thanks for the extra information on my name. Although some of those adjectives are very fitting, others are not.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. My parents could not agree on names. My mother with her German background had a list of terrible names, all from her heritage. My father said emphatically, NO.

    He on the other hand, with his Scottish/Irish background had a list of names which she said NO to. In some cases because she thought they were to strange, to Catholic (?).

    Finally, they bought a baby naming book and picked.


    • Val,
      Interesting that your mom was saying NO to the too Catholic, yet in Cynthia’s case, someone was saying Not Catholic Enough. Just more rationale that it takes all types to make the world go around. Thanks for sharing!


  11. Your topics always amaze me, and this one is right up there – so interesting. My Mother named me Mary Beth, but when the hospital filled out the birth certificate they mistakenly wrote Mary Elizabeth and my Mother, bless her heart did want to hurt their feelings, so it was left as is. Thus, I’m a Mary Elizabeth which suits me fine. Named after the Blessed Virgin, a special figure in both our lives.


  12. Vanessa was actually a name invented by Jonathan Swift (the author of Gulliver’s travels), so it doesn’t really have a meaning, and I wasn’t named after anyone, my parents just liked the name. So no interesting things to relate really about my name!


  13. Love the name game!
    I was named after my dad, he was named after my grandpa, see the pattern? Very original lol
    One of the downers of being the first born, my brother was named after my mom’s dad.


    • Leo,
      i think you are the first commenting here with that name-game example. At least your parents didn’t also name your brother Leo! …. for instance, a guy named George having 5 sons all named George.


  14. I don’t actually have my own name… My name is Frances Margaret Pimblett. My first name is a familial name that is bestowed on the first born of each family (male or female so my dad was Francis), my mother wasn’t happy about this outcome. She wanted to call me “Penelope” for some reason and she stubbornly refused to call me Frances from that day on and only called me Penny till the day that she died which resulted in some confusion further down the track. She got her own back (are you surprised my parents divorced? 😉 ) by insisting that I have her first name (Margaret) as my middle name. I have been married twice and thus my maiden name (Stahl) is now someone elses name as well. I therefor was never given a name all of my own that wasn’t expected or thrust upon me. Thank goodness my parents weren’t stubborn hippies or I can only imagine what kind of a name I would have ended up with after all of that arguing!


  15. My mother’s name is Jobyna, which was hard for her–no one every pronounces it correctly. So I was born in the “Debbie Reynolds” era so she opted for a popular name. Isn’t your wife a Debra/Deborah? I had an Aunt Hazel, and that name is starting to reappear. Julia Roberts has a daughter named Hazel and I’ve seen it popping up more frequently, as well as Pearl. I’d love to see the “old” names return! Nice post, Frank. 🙂


    • Debra,
      Hey hey … your are the second here named after Debbie Reynolds. But nope, my wife isn’t a Debra/Deborah, but I sure have my share of them who stop by here … tough for me to remember the correct spelling for each of them.

      Regarding your mother, such a unique name … your heritage?

      I had no idea that Hazel & Pearl are on the comeback trail of names. But I don’t hold as much hope for Gertrude and Bertha.


  16. “Names carry power and reputation … in both a positive and negative sense
    Names carry responsibility”…
    So true… Imagine if one’s last name was Hitler or Stalin!…I’d have to change it!`
    As to my name my grandfather’s name was Amalia (a weird name indeed), so as the female version is Amalia… My parents chose that one for me … As to the meaning I found this information online: Amalia is derived from the Germanic word amal meaning “work”, and connotes “industrious” and “fertile”… German, really? I didn’t know that… 😀
    Best wishes and thanks for sharing this awesome post dear Frank. Aquileana (Amalia)


  17. I can understand the variability in first and middle names which are, at least in our society, almost completely at the discretion of the parents’ imagination and daring. I perceive that their variability may be directly proportional to cultural self-confidence. Depression-era names showed little imagination. Well, it’s an hypothesis anyway.

    What I do not understand is the variability in surnames. With the convention of keeping the parents’ surname, how can this be? Even after 7 decades of experience I seem to be constantly encountering surnames I’ve never heard before! Are there that many people in the witness-protection programs now?

    One final thought. Pitiable is he whom his parents saddle with a moniker that is instinctively misspelled or mispronounced. Ouch.

    Did you hear the one about the guy who went to the judge and asked that his name be legally changed? The judge said, well, I see that your name is Fred Fudpucker. I can understand your motivation, sir. What do you want to change it to? Fred looks the judge in the eye and says Claude Fudpucker, your honor. I just can’t stand that my names rhyme!


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