Monday, August 2, 2010

What's in a name?

One thing I've struggled with for ages is choosing a name for Sprout. It's such a momentous task, really. I mean, most of us probably don't give a whole lot of thought to our name on a daily basis once we're adults unless we really hate it. However, it's a huge part of our identity because it's the first thing most people learn about us. Sometimes it's the only thing. People make assumptions based on our names. They usually connect us to a culture, an ethnicity, the era when we were given the name.

There's just so much meaning embedded in every moniker too. If you have a name that is also that of a celebrity, you're connected to them somehow, whether your parents named you after them intentionally or not. If your name is unusual, other people may never be able to spell/pronounce/remember it correctly.

When Oliver & I have been searching for names for Sprout, we've agreed that we want his name to reflect our heritage. I don't want to pick a random name that I like the sound of from a country I've never been to. I have to go back a few generations to find anything other than 'Canadian Mutt' but when I do I find: English, Welsh, Quebecois, Belgian, Swedish. Oli's easier, being first-generation Canadian--his background is pretty much just German, though some of his family is from the part which has at some times in history been Poland.

Far from a traditional European name though, we want Sprout's handle to be original, not one that will always require his last initial attached to it, i.e. Mike A., Mike B., Mike C. (Sorry Mikes, but there are a lot of you out there!) Unique, but not too weird...

Here is a list of some of the names we've looked at, with information on origins & meaning, plus some comments of my own:

(Disclaimer: we have agreed on few of these & have each vetoed some already)

  • Bastien (I prefer the french spelling)
    • short form of Sebastian, of Greek origin, meaning "revered". The original form of this name referred to those from a particular city or region of Asia minor, whose Greek name was from the Latin imperial title "Augustus". Saint Sebastian, probably a native of that place, was a third-century martyred centurion who became patron saint of soldiers. Shakespeare gave the name to the twin brother of Viola in "Twelfth Night". British use since the 1940s may have been influenced by a character in Evelyn Waugh's popular "Brideshead Revisited". Sebastien is popular in France.
  • Byron (as a middle name perhaps)
    • of Old English origin, meaning "at the byres or barn". Place name & surname often used as a given name. Lord Byron in the 1850s was a poet famous for his wildness and debauchery. Literary: the variant form Biron was the name of a character in Shakespeare's "Love's Labours Lost".
  • Falco (also "Falcon", the name of "Balloon Boy")
    • of Latin origin. A surname having to do with falconry. Who could forget the famous Austrian 80s glam-pop artist, Falco? "Rock me Amadeus!"Falke is a German form.
  • Haldor
    • from the Old Norse name Hallþórr, which meant "Thor's rock". Hallr "rock", combined with the name of the Norse god Þórr (Thor). Also a character (?) in World of Warcraft: "Haldor the Compulsive". A very manly name. Maybe too manly.
  • Joachim (German pronunciation: yo-AH-km)
    • of Hebrew origin, meaning "established by God". Short form of the Hebrew name Jehoichin. Joaquin Miller was a noted & colorful 19th-century poet-adventurer of the American West. According to medieval Catholic tradition, Joachim was the name of the Virgin Mary's father. Composer Josquin Des Pres; actor Joaquin Phoenix. Not sure anyone would ever pronounce it the way we would. Also a bit too religious for my tastes.
  • Kiefer
    • of German origin, meaning "barrel maker". Variant of Cooper. "Kiefer" also means pine tree in German. The ever-scrappy actor Kiefer Sutherland; painter Anselm Kiefer.
  • Linnaeus (lih-NAY-us)
    • The latinized surname of Karl Von Linne, the Swedish biologist who developed our current system of taxonomy
  • Lyndon
    • of Old English origin, meaning "linden tree hill". Often a surname. American President Lyndon Baines Johnson, Canadian journalist Linden MacIntyre. But not because of Trevor Linden.
  • Maximilian
    • of Latin origin, meaning "greatest". The name of three Roman emperors & various saints. Popular in Germany. Actor Maximilian Schell. Interestingly enough, there are tons of variants on this name: Mac, Mack, Maks, Maksim, Maksym, Maksymilian, Massimiliano, Massimo, Max, Maxey, Maxemilian, Maxemilion, Maxie, Maxim, Maxime, Maximilian, Maximiliano, Maximilianus, Maximilien, Maximillian, Maximino, Maximo, Maximos, Maxy, Maxymilian & Maxymillian.
  • Oren
    • of Hebrew, Irish and Gaelic origin, meaning "ash or pine tree; fair, pale". Was somewhat popular in the US about a hundred years ago. Also spelled "Orin", which happens to be one of my favourite varieties of apple.
  • Stirling
    • a variant of Sterling (English), meaning "genuine, of high quality". Also sounds a bit like the annoying, raspy little starling, an invasive species brought from England.

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