What’s in a name?

What’s in a name?

I received the text while we were driving home from a morning bike ride.

Shalom Family and Friends,

Today we brought our newborn son אורי  עדריאל URI ADRIEL (oo-ree, ah-dree-el) into the covenant of Avraham (the bris was very small/private). Thank G-d everyone is good health. We look forward to celebrating with you when things calm down.  


Nathan and Karen    

They explained the Biblical origins of the names and helped me with the pronunciations. As a teacher, I always made it a point of saying students’ names correctly; I certainly need to say my new grandson’s name right!

I thought about names.  I was one of four Lisas in my high school graduating class of 160.  Named after my mother’s grandfather Louis, I was happy I hadn’t been a boy: I’d have been Lloyd Irving.  I hated people asking me if my name was short for Elizabeth or if they called me Liza or Leeza.

My sister Madeline suffered similar humiliation when our Uncle Irving called her Maddie. Even as a little girl, she wasn’t afraid to express her feelings. He countered that he suffered being called “Irvala” growing up.  Point taken, I guess. As adults we create diminutive forms of names that really are terms of endearment, not meant to embarrass.

The obstetrician who delivered our first son Jacob called him Jake before he cut the cord. I insisted on Jacob. He now calls himself Yaakov, the Hebrew variation.

I had to tell people that our second son’s name was Nathan, not Nathaniel, and never Nate. But he did love the “Nate the Great” books as a kid.

For my daughter, I knew I wanted the middle name Rose after my father’s mother. Three great- granddaughters share that middle name. I was stuck on her first name until I read it in the newspaper- a high school principal somewhere- and it went with Rose.  She’s always correcting people who call her Linda or Laura or confuse the two of us.

Sandra Cisneros’ short essay “My Name” in The House on Mango Street describes the origin of a young girl’s name, Esperanza, and how the girl wishes it more “like the real me.”  I used this often as writing prompt, asking students to write about their own names. Then I’d have them write their names backwards, creating a “super-hero,” and tell his or her story.

Names invariably suit the individual.  Within seconds, I felt “Uri” fit the tiny person now in our lives.  I hope he likes it too.

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9 Responses to What’s in a name?

  1. Madeline Taylor says:

    I’ve always loved my name both first and middle – not only because of it’s origins (I believe both you and Naomi had a hand in naming me) but for it’s originality. For most of my life, I was always the only Madeline. There was one year at Camp Kokosing where, to my horror there were TWO other Madeline’s. Thankfully, one went by the hideous-in-my-mind moniker of Maddie and the other was grossly obese so there was no chance of ever confusing us. Not very nice, I admit but my ten-year-old self was adamant about maintaining my unique status.
    Currently, there are many Madeline’s who share my earth, most unbelievably chose to go by Maddie! Perhaps it’s due to the frustration they as I know I face when trying to say Madeline over the phone. No matter how clearly I annunciate or how slowly I spell it – I still get “O.K. Marilyn” or “Thank you for calling, Natalie” or “Have a Blessed Day, Melodie”…Not even close!? It isn’t until I break down and say: “No NOT Marilyn, Not Natalie but Madeline as in ’12 little girls in 2 straight lines, the smallest one is Madeline’ – do they finally get the message. It seems that the name Madeline in all it’s endless spellings and everyone’s determination to shorten it to Maddie – may come and go but the Madeline books by Ludwig Behmelmans (SP?) will remain a classic in minds and hearts the world over. I am thankful to have a name that seems to evoke fond childhood memories in so many folks out there!
    By the way, I believe there are only two great granddaughters that share Rose as a middle name: Lydia and Ruby. The others – Leah Rene, Sonia Polina, Dasha Simone…..Nevetheless, great post!!


    • Naomi named you after the Madeline stories. I hate Maddie. But I also can’t spell it when and extra “e” is added- Madeleine- French, I guess. I thought we gave Lydia a unique name but there was another one in her high school class and another one at Kenyon! What’s with that!!! Thanks for responding. Kiran’s middle name is Rose. Remember, we have cousins that had the same grandparents we did!


  2. I go by both Yaakov and Jacob, depending on the crowd. Judaism really emphasizes names. They’re considered the key of our deepest identity, implying the strengths and challenges we will express in this lifetime.

    It seems to me though that even deeper than the name, which is ultimately a concept with a lot of associations, is the simple feeling of being alive, of existing. This is a nameless part of our being that we all share.


  3. Wendy Lapham says:

    My name, Wendy, seems to be dying out. There was always at least one other Wendy in school with me, but in my daughter’s generation, the Wendys have vanished. I loved Madeline’s post. Madeline has always been the only Madeline I know, and of course, there is only one Madeline!! I can still hear your Mom and Dad calling me “Wendela.” Too cute!


  4. Nathan says:

    According the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendal Schneerson, parents have prophecy as to the correct name for their child. His followers used to ask him regularly what to name their children and he was adamant about not interfering with what he believed was a divine process.

    Regardless of the veracity of the Rebbe’s opinion, it certainly makes me feel good about my choice!


  5. lisa Lai Ye says:

    Lisa, congratuate again on your new born grandson… he looks very healthy which is the top wish from any new born babies parents.. I love your name naming story…I guess any teacher can teach a chaper of “Name Naming ” … have fun with the grandbaby..cheers


  6. Lisa P says:

    Congratulations!!! Your grandson is too precious and cute for life!!! Beautiful!


  7. Leah says:

    Lovely post. I wrote something similar last October about the meaning behind names. Check it out if you’re interested: http://leahsthoughts.com/2010/10/08/whats-in-a-name/


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