Names are very important, but we rarely have any choice in the matter. My parents chose my name, they signed a form, and that was it. My name means ‘youthful’, but does its meaning have any impact on me, or define who I am?
Then we choose names for our own children. We pore over baby books searching for names we like, have suitable meanings, or sound right when linked with our family name. Or do we make something up, like J M Barrie with ‘Wendy’ in Peter Pan. Our children have no choice, we sign the form, and that’s it.
Some may change their names, but how do they choose? We all have pre-conceived ideas about names – the spotty kid we grew up with, the class clown, the girl who was always top of the class, or names of pop stars and celebrities. And would changing our name actually make any difference to the essential part of us, because surely we’d still be the same person inside?
Some names seem to go on for ever, weaving through history; some appear for a moment, and disappear again just as quickly; others come and go, their popularity waxing and waning like the phases of the moon. And don’t start me on spellings – how can children learn to spell if their own names don’t follow the phonic rules of their mother tongue?
However,whether we like them or not, our names do give us a place in society, a place in history, and a place within our circle of friends and family. My friends and family know me by my name, and I know them by theirs, and that’s a very good place to be.