I’m not lying. Not kidding. Not exaggerating. May a lightning bolt come down from the sky this very minute if I’m even treading near untruth.
There’s a girl at my local Kmart whose name is Marijuanna.
I noticed it immediately as it was displayed for all to see on her nametag. I desperately wanted to ask how she pronounces it. Was it possible that it was a real name in some other language and it just happened to look almost exactly the same as the nickname for a popular illegal drug? I didn’t dare ask, but it turned out I didn’t need to since the woman behind me obviously saw it as well.
“That’s a joke, right?” she asked, pointing to the associate’s nametag. “Please tell me your mother did not name you Marijuana.”
Unphased, the girl answered, “It’s pronounced Marie-jew-ANna.” (“Anna” as in ‘‘Hannah”, emphasis on “an”)
“Is that another language?” The woman was reading my mind.
“Only if revenge is a language. It was my mother’s way of sticking it to Grandma.”
Having this exchange filed under “N” somewhere in the shelving units of my brain, I went to church this Sunday and heard a conversation during Relief Society between two young mothers. One was explaining to the other how she came up with the name “Parkin” for her son.
“I just wanted something different and unique”, she said.
My thought was, “Why?” Not that “different and unique” are bad, but I was honestly curious about the reasoning for wanting a name that was uncommon. Is it because she hopes that having an uncommon name would influence the child to be “uncommon” as well?
Because she wants his name to stand out among a list of others? Because “common” is equivalent to “boring”? I didn’t know. I didn’t ask. I wish I had.
But while I was hearing the conversation and bouncing it around in my head, I was immediately reminded of a situation about six months ago, when one of the sisters I visit teach was getting ready to deliver a little girl. Her baby was coming soon but she and her husband still hadn’t been able to choose a name, so she put out a request for suggestions on Facebook.
I remembered being a little puzzled. She and her husband both come from LDS families themselves, so surely they were familiar with their own family’s names, maybe even back several generations. They’re both bright people, who must have close friends, heroes and role models, real or imaginary, from history or personal experience and relationships, books, movies, etc. So the thought of them not being able to “think of a good name” for their child seemed odd to me.
All that, with a request for suggestions on Facebook left me with the impression that significance didn’t have any roll in the naming of their child. So I wondered what her criteria were for “a good name.” Was it how it rolled off the tongue and sounded in the ear? Did it have to be “different”? Did it have to sound gender neutral? Did it have to be contemporary or instead possess a more classical ring? Did it have to have a significant meaning in its etymology?
The name she finally picked was chosen because she “just liked the way it sounded”.
My children all have pretty common first and middle names, all chosen because they each had familial significance and simultaneous religious meaning as well. One was named after the little sister I never got to have, one was named after his father and great grandfathers on both sides, another was named after her grandmother, great-grandmother and a pious great-great Aunt, and the last was given her great-grandmother’s middle name for her first name, which also has very significant religious ties to our faith, as well as a middle name that is actually a combination of one my favorite Biblical heroines and her grandmother’s middle name.
Each of my children know why they were given the names they have. They know, though may not yet fully appreciate stories about each of the people whose names they carry, and the strengths and qualities that we want them to associate with the names. All of this was completely intentional. It was important to me that my children’s names had real meaning and significance, and I wanted them to know and feel that meaning, too. At the time, I didn’t know why. I didn’t even think about the why—it just was. But now the why seems so obvious to me that I’m surprised I didn’t put it together before. I guess it took these three “naming” conversations over a period of several months to come together and churn around in my mind to bring it all to light.
I remember asking my father how they picked my name. I think I was around 10 or so. He jokingly said that he named me after an old girlfriend. Har-dee, har-har. I rolled my eyes and waited for an explanation, but an explanation never came. Then years later when I asked again, he said that he heard the name while he was in college. It was the name of a classmate’s sister. When he and my mother were considering what they should call me, he remembered that he liked it, suggested it, and wala, I had a name.
It’s not like it really bothered me or upset me that my name had no special meaning or real signficance to them—or to me either, but I wished that it did.
It would have been nice if it did.