Tuesday, December 18, 2007

On Naming Your Baby

OK, so the legal system of Italy is clearly a bit unfamiliar to us Americans. A case in point is the most recent court order not only denying a family the right to name their child "Friday" but requiring that he be renamed "Gregory" (to read the article, click here).

But I was struck by the Reuters piece which explained, that "many priests insist that first names be of Christian origin."

As I said, such a court ruling would be unthinkable in America--at least as we know it now; but who knows how far political correctness will go? I could well imagine American courts a hundred years from now disallowing the names of saints, because, say, the court might think government would thereby be giving credence to the Christian religion, blah blah blah, and therefore "we insist that your child be renamed Mahmoud."

But I digress.

Part of me is actually a bit pleased with those Italian priests. And I think American clergymen would serve our people well by at least suggesting proper Christian names for their children.

The rage these days is to name your child something that sounds good; that has become the chief, and in some cases, only, criterion. So we have names like "Atari," "Kreeshawn," "Charrday," and other ghetto names, as some are wont to call them. Actually we shouldn't really be calling them ghetto names, because the truth is that if you'd like to do a search for a name like this for your little darling, you could just check out the roster of your favorite National Football League team. Those kids certainly don't live in the ghetto.

Whatever happened to names like Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Sarah, Rebecca, Hannah, Samuel, Paul, David, or Lois? Or even some post-biblical saint, like Gregory? The Italian court's choice wasn't bad, even if we'd say they went too far in requiring it. Or what about Leo, Anne, Lucy, Nicholas, or Martin? There's a reason, I say, that these kinds of names bespeak strength. They are the names of men and women of faith and character, something we will all do well to emulate.

And here's another old suggestion nobody thinks about any more: consider the date of your child's birth for a good suggestion as to his name. Expecting a child on December 26th? How about Stephen, or Stephanie? July 22nd? Mary, Magdalena, or Mario. April 21? Anselm.

Well, OK, that last one might also be considered taking things a bit far, but you get the idea.


Anonymous said...

What about your first name? From where does it originate?

Father Eckardt said...

Family name. My grandmother claimed she found it in a book, hence it is my father's name.

We named our first son the same name. He was born on June 11, so we like to think of it, sort of, as a derivation of Barnabas . . .

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Orthodox Christians are required to have Christian names. No doubt there are some exceptions, but normally, even if they have names like Aristotle or Andromeda, they have middle names like John or Maria.

And it is not at all uncommon among us to name a child for the saint on whose feast day the child was born.


Anonymous said...

Anastasia said: Orthodox Christians are required to ...

And it is not at all uncommon among us to ...

Wasn't that the case with all Christendom at one time?

Father Eckardt said...

I'll leave it to someone else to say whether "required" is exactly the word we want here; at least we can say that it was expected, and that everyone did it.

Past Elder said...

I don't know how I got Terence, being baptised RC in 1950. Back then, the custom clearly was to name children after saints, though the naming after the day's saint wasn't at all what it once was.

Mom wanted Stephen, but Dad won.

I do know how it got to be Terence, rather than Terrence or other variations -- because of the Latin original Terentius, as in the poet and playwright. Maybe Dad slid it by because my middle name is James, as Anastasia suggests. His name was Frank, not short from Francis, Frank, but he grew up Methodist, in those days rather something different than the UMC. No-one in the Lutheran Church (WELS at the time) said anything about it when that was chosen as my first son's name.

Regardless, I agree with the general point that having to invent new names for each kid seems to re-inforce the self orientation of society.

Re naming children after the saint's day on which they were born, there was also the custom of naming children after the saint of the day on which they were born again, ie baptised. I think that's why Mr and Mrs Luther named their baby boy Martin when he was baptised 11 Movember, feast of St Martin.

The Rev. Benjamin Ball said...

Fr. Eckardt-
Well, my wife delivered our 2nd child this past Thursday, December 20th. She is named Alethea Marie. Does naming her after our Lord and His mother pass?
Fr. Petersen suggested that I Christen her Thomas, but she wasn't baptized on the 21st. She will be on the Christ Mass.

Father Eckardt said...

Contrats, Ben. To be baptized Alethea Marie on the Christ Mass! Nice, very nice.

She will, incidentally, share that baptismal date with me.

solarblogger said...

Though it is not nearly so good a reason for using Christian names as the ones you offered, I saw one TV program—probably a 20/20 segment with John Stossell—where in applying for jobs, they would send in the same resume under two different names: one a traditional name and the other, what you called a "ghetto name." They did this with multiple resumes showing differing levels of education and experience. The traditional name would be called in for an interview. The ghetto name would not. People form an impression of a person based upon the name. Whimsical names bring up mental pictures of flaky people.

A nickname is a great place to be more creative.