I’m going to write about names. A lot of this is copied from a journal entry I wrote last night at about 4 AM, so it might be a bit disorganized. I got to thinking about them more when I came across J.R.R. Tolkien’s Wikipedia page last night. It has a copy of his signature, and when I saw it, I thought, “Man, that’s way cooler than mine!”
Mine looks like it was created by a sixth-grader—because it was. The only significant change to it since I was in probably middle school is that I added a crappy flourish at the end. I’m a font designer! My signature should be memorable and awesome!
Then I got to thinking, some of the reason that I haven’t put a whole lot of effort into making a cool signature is probably that I’m not particularly enthusiastic about my name. My first two names are from the Bible, a book I haven’t even read. They don’t say anything in particular about me or anyone I’m related to or anything I’ve done. My last name is a little better, but as far as I know it’s just the name of some hill in Scotland. Dad says that’s its etymology, but Mom maintains that no one really knows.
I think a lot about names. Mainly it’s about names for potential kids of mine, but sometimes about alternate names for me or things I need to name. The main problem I come up against is that almost all of the names we have in English are from other cultures, cultures I have no particular connection to. I’m not Jewish, so why do I have two Hebrew names? Likewise about a lot of names I think about. I look mainly at the name’s meaning and the way it sounds. But I remember reading once that “Björk” is just the straight Icelandic word for “birch”, and that Icelandic names are often transparent like that. And then, after I discover a meaning, I wonder, What reason do I have for putting that meaning in that language? I have no connection to Hebrew culture. I don’t even know much of anything at all about German culture, which is apparently where the Charles of Chuck Masterson comes from. (I made that up because it sounded cool. It still does, and I still like it, but I bet if it were my real name I’d start thinking about it like I have with my actual name. I’d be using it a lot more, and thus thinking about it more. For example, who’s this Master that I’m supposed to be the “son” of? Dad’s an environmental services manager, so ho has underlings… but I don’t think he’d call himself the Master.)
A tradition I like is the Native American one—and I’m sad to say that I have no idea which tribes this includes—of earning a name. Kids have temporary names. When they come of age, they’re given a name that has to do with them, and it’s a name in the native language. Like (and I don’t know many examples) Tahca Ushte, which means “Lame Deer”. I read a semi-auto biography of him once, many years ago. Someone he mentioned was a guy whose name translated to “Man Afraid of His Horse”, which sounds embarrassing until you learn that it means he’s such a fierce warrior that other people are afraid when they see just his horse, even if they can’t see him. Or Goyaałé, which means “One Who Yawns”. They all have a story behind them.
I came up with my hobo name a while ago, and that’s one that I like. I won’t put it on here, because I’m trying to be a bit more responsible with my identities vis-à-vis the internet, but it has the characteristics I mentioned. It’s made out of two words of my native English, and it describes me, and it even plays on a phrase to add more to the identity. It’ll feature prominently in whatever alternate name I come up with. I don’t know if I’m going to follow any sort of traditional “first, middle, last” formula with it, but if I do, it’ll be one of those names, probably middle or last.
I think what I’ll do is wait until I take English Historical Linguistics next spring. I’m going to enjoy that class. I’ll learn about old English naming traditions, and about their words, and I’ll come up with something or other. Possibly I’ll figure something out sooner.
What am I going to do with a new name once I figure one out? I don’t know. Start introducing myself to new people by it, start signing stuff with it. I just want to come up with something that means me. It’s not Mom or Dad’s fault, since they could hardly foresee what sort of person I would have been when they were naming me at my birth. If anything, my slight unease with my name has to do with our naming traditions, which aren’t as personal as the Native one that I was talking about. And with English, which seems to have an inferiority complex as far as forming new things out of native roots. (Almost all the new words we make up are from Latin and Greek roots.) I could go on and on. I love talking about names and etymology. But if I feel like going on and on, I’ll come up with something more organized first. In the meantime, I’ll close this entry out, and go think about signatures.