You are on page 1of 2

On names:

Watching a video special on tigers in India, I was reminded of several very different bases for a
name. The hero of this particular film was referred to as Broken Tail for the simple reason that
his tail had a sharp downturn, a break in a way that was different from the great majority of
other tigers.
This name, then was given to him because of a distinguishing featurethough not necessarily
one defining the essence or even a significant element of essential identifyof the one being
named. Another example of such naming is when the Bible refers to a specific Egyptian leader as
(in biblical Hebrew) Pharaoh Neche.or, the Limping Pharaoh. When a thin person is called
Slim or Flaco and when people are called Red because of their hair colorthese are other
examples of naming by Distinguishing Feature.
Another very common basis of naming is family or cultural tradition. Whether Mohammad in
Islamic culture used so often to honor their founding prophet, or when children are named after
grandparents or parents, let us call these Echo names.
Then there are names given for reasons more significant to the parent than to the child being
named. Jacobs sons provide several examples, by the Bibles direct account: Simeon to
commemorate God hearing Leahs wishes; Levi for the confidence that now (with her third son)
her husband will escort her; Judah, because now Leah thanks and acknowledges God, etc. None
of these are focused on the childs essence, but on the mothers experience.
(Also, that people often live into and fulfill their names is true, but they were not named for
their initial essence; in such cases they shape their essence to fit their name.) Still, such names
relate in an essential and emotionally significant way to at least one major party in the story
unlike a Distinguishing Feature name. Let us call this category of naming, Meaning to
In addition to distinguishing features and meaning to others, there can be a more essential and
authentic basis for namesthat relating to the named ones behavior, personality or character
even perceived destiny. Essential Self, then, is a category of naming we will add to
Distinguishing Feature. The Bible offers many examples. Jacob, for one, was originally named
for the apparently insignificant behavior at birth of holding on to the heel of his brother, but after
prevailing in a wrestling match with a spiritual being he was renamed Israel. Both names were
for his behavior, but the latter, Israel, was far more glorious and reflective of essential
capabilitiesperhaps the same struggling instinct, but this time victorious.
And although Essential Self naming, by definition, names something that distinguishes the
named individual from others, that distinction is likely to be more behavioral or characterological
or essentially meaningful than those surface distinctions evident to the sensesand thus
Essential Self naming is deserving of a separate category from Distinguishing Feature

Related Interests