What’s In a Name?

Ever since I was young, I have been intrigued by names. I like different sounding names, unique names, but more than anything, I like the meanings of names. My interest in names didn’t start out all wonderful-like. It was more out of survival.

My parents split when I was 6, and even though I know now it had nothing to do with me, back then, I took it pretty hard. I went from being a fairly well adjusted kid to being someone with a low self image (actually,Β  that was an understatement). I played it off in a lot of ways, probably cuz I was, and still am, competitive, but internally, I dealt with it every day. One of the things I would do to find balance was to get our family bible and look at the geneaology in the back (it was the only action that bible was getting back then πŸ™‚ ). I would read the names and the relationships and remember how things used to be. I loved the names, but it wasn’t until I stumbled across something that had the definition of my name that my life changed. It wasΒ one of those cards you find at roadside trinket shops that have the names and their meaninngs. Β “Kenneth – meaning: Handsome”. Now, before you start thinking I was getting totally self absorbed, I was only 7 or 8, and until this time, because of the self esteem issues i was dealing with, I had been feeling pretty ugly and unloved. Then to find that my parents named me “handsome”, really rocked my world. This made me curious, so I had to find out what my middle name meant. “David” means beloved. So, here is this kid, no more than 8 years old, feeling ugly and unloved, finding out that his parents named him handsome and loved…

I asked my mom why she named me Kenneth, and whether I was named after anyone. She said no, she just liked the name. For me, that made it even more special. My name was my own, and every time I, or anyone else said it, I heard what I was meant to feel about myself. Even now, I am amazed by how much that affects me, in a good way.

Since then, I have looked deeper into not only my name, but others’ names. It’s been fun seeing people realize just how close they are to the meanings of their names. I’ve even spoken to parents who couldn’t figure out what was “wrong” with their kids. I asked them if they knew the meaning of their kids names, and none of them did. When I told them to look into it, they all came back to me, life changed, because “it all made sense” – all because they knew something new about their kids.

I dug more into my name. Kenneth not only means handsome, but insight, vision, perception. Most people know I am a visionary, a dreamer. Deeper… Kenneth means “born of fire”… yeah, that’s what’s in me…

Earlier today, Estrella asked me what name I preferred, Ken or Kenneth. That’s a good question. Not just for me, but for most people. There are a lot of people that don’t like their names, or identify with the meanings of their names (how is someone who grew up in the city gonna identify with a name that means “from the forest”?). The thing I realized over the years is for some, the name defines them. For others, they define the name. When I hear the name “Judy”, I hear “vibrant”. “Keith”, pastor’s heart. I love to call people by their names, because when I hear their names, I hear what they mean to me.

So what’s a Tall Pajama Man anyway? Ha, yes, there is a meaning even behind this one, but I’ll let you come up with your own meaning for a while, based on what you know about me πŸ™‚ (if you’re nice, I’ll let you in on the secret, hee hee)

What does your name mean?

19 Replies to “What’s In a Name?”

  1. Wow, Kenneth, this line made me tear up “So, here is this kid, no more than 8 years old, feeling ugly and unloved, finding out that his parents named him handsome and loved…” Both your names have such wonderful meanings and so fitting might I add (even if I only know you online so far) πŸ™‚

    What do my names mean?
    Well, online I use my pen name: Estrella Azul which means Blue Star in translation. That’s because I like stars, my favorite color is blue and it sounded better in Spanish so I went with that.
    I like that it’s not exactly easy to be shortened – and I’m fine with shortened names – unless it’s mine πŸ˜›

    My real life names are interestingly lined up.
    My first name is a flower’s name. My middle name is also a flower’s name, except my parents didn’t even know it at the time, I found out searching for names meanings a number of years ago (instead of paying attention in class πŸ˜‰ when else?).
    My pet name, totally different than my actual name except it also starts with a “K”, is also a flower’s name.
    I find it quite funny actually – but fitting, since I have a passion for flowers and used to be (still am at heart) a florist.
    I like all my names.
    The “problem” I have with them however, is when people want to shorten them. And since 7, and respectively 6 letters is longer than 4, everyone shortens my name! I don’t think there are a total of five people who call me by my full first name.

    Lately I started liking using simply my initial, K, with a couple of American friends who I email with, since I can’t exactly teach them how to pronounce my real name. It’s interesting, but I like the initial more than when my name gets shortened!

    That said, you can call me Estrella (which I also love since I got to choose that for myself, for online presence.) πŸ™‚

    1. Ah, Estrella! There are so many questions I want to ask you! I love that you were searching out your names in class (I just developed a new alphabet in class when I was bored πŸ™‚ ). Promise me that you will teach me how to pronounce your names when we meet in person. Names to me are like a fine meal. I love how they feel on the tongue.

      “Double flower”… that you are πŸ™‚ (actually, triple flower… very wow)

      1. I know πŸ˜‰ (you didn’t really think I’d leave off being mysterious, did you?)
        Promise I’ll teach you how to pronounce my name when we meet, it’ll be funny – or at least it was when I was teaching the American friends I met in person in Sicily last year.

        And oh yeah, triple flower – definitely wow πŸ˜‰

        Oh, and I noticed I forgot to have my say about “Tall Pajama Man”. I’m thinking tall because well, you are tall. And Pajama Man is in my opinion a continuation of what your blog and online presence is revolved around in names so to say, being a grown up kid πŸ™‚

      2. Haha, Estrella, all of that is good :-). So, yes, our list continues to grow, and it gives me one more reason to anticipate our meeting. And I love your thoughts about Tall Pajama Man. I think I will.start adopting some of the meanings, cuz they are more fun than the real meaning πŸ™‚

  2. Name meanings are so important to me. πŸ™‚ One of my hobbies is digging into the deepest root meanings of words and names and teasing out the truth and beauty hidden in them. I love bringing words and names to Life for people… and I love it that you do, too. πŸ™‚
    My name means, at the roots – Holy to the Lord (Lisa) and Grace (Anne). I love it because you can’t have one without the other. πŸ™‚

    1. Lisa-Anne, thank you for replying both here and on Facebook. Admittedly, after I did the post, I wondered if people would see it a waste, but you demonstrated just why I see names the way I do. You blessed Miriam more than you know. Thank you πŸ™‚

  3. Wow. I remember the conversation we had long ago, brother mine, about the pleasure and comfort you found in the meanings of your given names. Hearing you articulate why makes that memory all the more precious.

    As I read this, and think of your story, I also think of mine and the little I know of it. I’m not an orphan, but I feel like one because, really, in the context of family the only thing I know about myself is my name. (You know this stuph, right?) A nice way of explaining my challenges is to say that my birth father shaped life by changing the facts about himself to suit the occasion. He never told me where his family was from (Russia? Germany? Ireland? One of the Slavic countries?), only that they escaped to Sweden to prevent being wiped out and, once there, adopted a common surname to more readily fit in. (Well, he also said they were royalty but as Meg Ryan said in Sleepless in Seattle, “Who can believe this?”) I know for sure that I’m 3/8 Swedish on my mother’s side, also that the 1/8 is Finnish from her half-Finn father. But I’m not sure exactly where in Sweden I was born (Oland? Stockholm? elsewhere?) because my father had my birth certificate changed and the original destroyed at the same time as he tried to kidnap me and take me out of the country. I was 15 when he did this but didn’t find out about the forced name change (no, I’m not telling you that one) and other doctored information until I was twice that age. And now only two people in my immediate family remain alive: both my sisters who share a different father than mine and won’t discuss any of it with me, one because growing up was a horror and the other because her religion forbids her to communicate with me.

    And what does all that have to do with my given names? Lots, because other than knowing I’m unconditionally loved by the Father, they’re all I can point to and say, “This is me.”

    My first name is the Swedish spelling of an Anglican name with Greek origins: Margret. Before my emotions healed from the first 27 years of my life, I distanced myself from it by going by Margie. I also used that name because two precious three-year-old twins couldn’t wrap their mouths around Margret but they could easily say Margie. My birth name means “pearl” and yesterday I learned my nickname means “a pearl.” Why they’re different I don’t know, but they are, and it makes me think my nickname includes me in one of many but my birth name emphasizes my uniqueness. (I also tell people the name fits because, guess what? I’m white and round just like a pearl. πŸ˜‰ ) My middle name was impossible to find anywhere when I looked online a decade ago except in reference to a very expensive car built in the early 1900s ($6,000 when others were only $600). Now I look up Dagmar and I’m told it’s of German derivation and means (get this): “Glory to the Danes!” How weird is that? πŸ™‚

    Thank you, dear one, for writing this post, for making me look once again at a part of me, and for bringing yet more healing into my life. I love you for that and so much more.

    1. Hi sis,

      I’m still taking in the wonder of your repky, Nd decided to look up Dagmar, and found a similar, but different meaning: day’s glory”. I guess the first part can be translated as day or Dane. Anyway, you as glorious does make total sense to me. Still reading, being blessed by you revealing your heart. Thank you πŸ™‚

      1. See? What’d I tell you? You continue to bless with your every action and every comment. Thanks again…..

  4. If I could change my name to “j,” I would. I don’t like Judy and never have. Plus, it means Jewish women, and while I seriously love me some beautiful Jewish women, I am not one. I would be a case where the meaning and the person don’t mesh. How about when you think “j” you think vibrant? πŸ˜‰

    I love that story though, about learning what your name meant and the way that it affected you at a time when it made such a huge difference for you. And, it was prophetic. You are both handsome and loved.

    1. Well, when I think of J, I think of you, so vibrant comes with the territory πŸ™‚

      Now I hope you don’t mind, but I dug deeper into your name (just cuz I love you like that πŸ™‚ ). Judah actually means praise, so your name actually means “from praise” or “person of praise”. I think its no surprise that this defines you, because you are both a giver and receiver of praise.

      (I’ll still call you J, though, cuz, like I said, when I think of J, I think of you πŸ™‚ )

      1. And, truth be told, my mom named me after St. Jude, patron saint of lost causes. No fooling. It’s actually kind of cool because she’d had miscarriages and she was praying for me to make it.

        But… yeah. j.

  5. So I already knew that my first name was connected to Christ and I love that. My middle name Lynn, I found out is associated with water, which I also love. I don’t think I would want any other name.

    I love that you were able to connect to the meaning of your names, to see what all who come in contact with you already know, that you are handsome (inside and out) and much loved!

    Thank you for sharing your story β™₯β™₯

  6. Well I certainly feel your name(s) fit you :). As for Tall Pajama Man, I can’t even begin to guess what that means…tall man who likes slumber parties?

    I love this post, Kenneth.

    My first name, Cynthia, (even Cindy), is derived from Greek, the moon personified. My middle name, Ann, is as already mentioned above, grace, or merciful.

    I didn’t know the meaning of my names until I was well into adulthood. As the parents you mentioned in your post, when I found out what my names meant I thought, wow, okay, that makes sense. I kinda feel I have lived my name. Like I entered from the dark side of the moon, only to rise in the dark, now shining from the warm reflection of the sun’s touch. And from there, I found grace given to the night.

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