“A name pronounced is the recognition of the individual to whom it belongs. He who can pronounce my name aright, he can call me, and is entitled to my love and service.” — Henry David Thoreau
I’ve been enamored by names much of my life.
The very first name I remember thinking it was really cool was while doing family genealogy, and realizing my great-grandmother — Virginia Dare Addington — had a name from history.
Everyone called her Ginnie from the time I could first remember, but when I found she was named after Virginia Dare — the first child born in the New World in 1587 on Roanoke Island in what is now North Carolina — it was significant to my then-inquisitive mind.
Oh, my mind is still inquisitive, these days it’s just pacing itself.
In recent years, I’ve come across first names of people that really piqued an interest into why we find names for our kids.
I heard the first names Brooklyn, Alabama, Georgia and Savannah used for girls’ first names and thought those really thoughtful and exclusive.
You ever read — or remember — famous names from history and they caught your eye, but you just went on without thinking any more about them?
I always thought the name Hiram Ulysses Grant was attention grabbing as to the name of this nation’s 18th president.
Now, I’m not casting shade on the first name of Hiram, but would we remember his name today in history if he went by his born first name of Hiram, or do we remember the Civil War general’s name because it was Ulysses — and distinctive?
We remember — or at least have read about — the mythological Greek warrior Achilles. Now, there is a first-rate moniker.
Ever notice that we have words in the English language like “moniker,” and they have somewhat become archaic?
I think it’s because it’s just easier to use the word “name.” Moniker sounds a bit odd.
How about the first name Attila? Now there’s a different name from history, more so because it belonged to an infamous personage named Attila the Hun — one of the most powerful rulers in the fifth century world.
I’ve always been partial to the first name Agrippina, a powerful Roman empress.
How about a well-known name from history past — Cleopatra. Not sure I’ve ever heard of a modern woman with that first name, but it certainly would be distinctive — and unforgettable.
Or this distinctive name from history — Godiva, as in Lady Godiva.
Would we remember her name had she not ridden naked on horseback — at least in legend — through the streets of Coventry, England, to gain remission of oppressive taxation her husband had imposed on his tenants, with only her long hair covering her body? Kind of conjures up the thought she was the first taxation patriot of the eventual American Revolution.
Well, it’s a thought.
Or, Hannibal, that famous name of the great general who took on the Roman Empire with his elephant-led army.
Now, I found a relative from my genealogical past — who made one of the first voyages on the Mayflower from the founding of the New World — going by the first name Kenelm. Now that is a name to grab your attention.
The Anglo-Saxon name comes from Saint Kenelm, who was venerated in Medieval England and mentioned in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales.”
I’ve always been fascinated by the name Lucrezia, as in the famous Italian-Spanish noblewoman of the famous/infamous House of Borgia — from history.
The name Saladin is etched in history past, who brought terror to Christian crusaders in Jerusalem and the Middle East.
Of course, Saladin is the bastardized name for the great Islamic general.
As many Western peoples have been unable or unwilling to pronounce properly, the crusaders gave Saladin that name because they were unable to pronounce his name correctly — Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn.
A unique name from ancient history is Xerxes, a king of the old Persian/Achaemenid Empire, who attempted to conquer Greece.
Of course, here in America, a good deal of first names come from the Holy Bible. Names like James and John, Luke and Esther, Mary and David, have been around for much of our history. Presidents like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln — all had first names that come directly from the Bible.
Today, first names likely do not come from history, but are no less unique.
First names like Liam, Noah, Sophia, Poppy, Willow, Phoebe, Paige, Harper, Finley, Harrison and Hunter are popular names today.
It seems names go back and forth between modern and not-so-modern. I guess it’s all in what your imagination can come up with.
We are stuck with our names, yet at the same time, they are who we make them.
Now, I’m waiting on the first baby named Covid.