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Name game

October 6, 2011 - Brad Siddons
Oh, what a fuss we make about names; our names, the names of the things we make, invent, have fun with, don't have fun with, our pets, our clothes, our cars, and, oh brother, how we do worry about the names of our CHILDREN.

Let me back up a few dozen years, back to when I was a boy. OK, I know I tend to do that. Just wait until you get to be … who do I sound like now? Let's move along. The name Brad, or for the formal among you, Bradley, is rather common today, but when my parents hung that on me, it was not. Boys were named John, Billy, Tom and Jim. So I got teased. Not really that much, I must admit. I was big enough that it all stopped by the time high school rolled around, anyway.

The point here is not to seek pity, but only to say that I understand, from only peripheral experience, about bullying. The act of bullying is about as low as one can go, short of stealing from a church. Bullies are despicable, but in many cases they are only mimicking what they see and hear at home. Children are the product of their environment. Parents who actually encourage their children to push other kids around — and some do — belong in jail.

If you are being bullied, don't put up with it for a minute. Talk to your parents or your grandparents or whoever it is that takes care of you. If you go to church, talk to your pastor, or your youth leader. Talk to your teacher at school. Keep trying until SOMEBODY helps. And I know that most victims are not going to read this blog, so if anyone who does know of any such situations, please do not turn a blind eye, or a deaf ear. Please.

Well, what a diversion that was. My apologies. I set out to talk about names, or more specifically, the names that parents are giving their children. In my job I have occasion to read page after page after page of young folks' names. From the lists of letters to Santa in the winter to the Graduation section in the spring to the Back to School pages in the fall, I see lots and lots and lots of names. Some make me smile, furrow my brow, or laugh out loud. And some make me pray for the kids as they go through life with the monikers that Mom and Dad hung on them.

Sorry, but I'm not going to mention any names. That would be mean. Yes, it would be bullying. Instead, my message is for the people who picked the names.

All I want to do here is submit a few points that I hope you will take to heart. As your child grows, be prepared to answer the following questions: Why did you name me (fill in the blank)? How do you say my name? Why did you spell my name this way? What does my name mean? What language is my name from? Where do people speak that language? And I'm sure there are others I didn't think of. Looking back over that list now, I'm worried that some folks might think I'm making fun. I'm really not, at least not intentionally. It's just that I've never seen so many unique and, yes, outlandish names. What's going on, I believe, is that today's parents are trying to establish themselves, their generation, as unique, right down to the names they pick for their kids. In that, at least, they are succeeding.

Understand something: I don't care what you name your kids. That's a completely personal decision. I am concerned with the spelling, however. Since most of the names I come across are on the printed page, I have no idea in many cases how you pronounce them. I could make a guess, based on the spelling, but I've come to learn that the letters and the order they appear sometimes have little to do with the way the child and his/her family verbalize them. When kids reach school, their teachers will show them how various letters sound when they are grouped together. That's how they learn to read. When the letters and corresponding sound of their name do not match what's being taught, learning will become more difficult. And, eventually, the language will be harmed as a result.

 
 

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