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What’s in a name?

It occurred to me whilst thinking about writing about Joel’s dedication day (which I’ll post soon) that I’ve not written about how we chose the boys’ names. We didn’t know the sex of either of them before they were born, so we had a pair of boys names and a pair of girls names ready. The girls names we still haven’t told anyone, in case we decide to have a third (not that likely, but you never know) and she’s a girl; the girl’s middle name stayed the same between having Andrew and Joel, but the first name changed because I’d met a rather whingey whiny girl with the original name at a group we started going to when Andrew was a baby, and it put me off!

When Tom and I sat down together to talk about baby names, my general personal preference was for traditional and (not necessarily but probably because many traditional names are) Biblical; I didn’t like anything too modern because that could potentially become out-dated or of its time, whereas traditional names have stood the test of time already. But I was also aware that many of the traditional names are very popular at the moment, so if we chose one of them, the baby could end up being in a school class with several other children with the same name – in my year at secondary school there were 6 Matthews and 6 Helens, and I quite liked being the only Ruth.joeledit

At first I was also keen to try and choose a first name that we liked which cannot be shortened. I’m not quite sure why, but I like that my name is just Ruth, with no shortenings; occasionally close friends and family have been known to lengthen it to Ruthy, but generally it’s just Ruth. It soon became clear, however, that there weren’t many names which we both liked for other reasons that fulfilled this criterion, so it became less of a priority for me. Tom (who is really Thomas) wasn’t bothered anyway.

There were certain sounds that I wanted  to avoid. I don’t like alliteration, so I didn’t want anything beginning with a (hard) C or K as that would be the same sound as our surname. It also didn’t sound right for the name to end in this sound – for example, I like the name Luke, but try saying Luke Cumming and it doesn’t flow right at all, and for that reason, names which could be shortened to end in that sound, such as Michael > Mike, were also out.

There are no family names which we felt obliged to take (or not take!), but on my side of the family, there have been a line of boys with the middle name James – my brother, Dad and Grandad – and as I liked this name anyway and felt like it worked well as a middle name with various other first name possibilities, we decided on that for Andrew. We both have mostly boys in our extended family, and all 6 of my boy cousins have nice traditional names; I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded having a first cousin once removed with the same name as them, but we didn’t want it to be confusing, so that cut down our shortlist.

Although we broadly agreed on what kinds of names we both liked, when it came to specifics there were some which I liked but Tom was less keen on, and vice versa. For example, I like several boys names beginning with J (Joel, James, Joshua, Jacob, Joseph etc.), but the only ones that Tom was really keen on were Joel and James. So that also cut down our individual shortlists to make a joint shortlist.andrewedit

Once we had Andrew, we felt a little more restricted  when choosing Joel’s name than when we were choosing Andrew’s. We actually liked Edward, David and George, but decided that none of these could be first names because with Edward we’d be going for a Royal Family theme, and with either David or George we’d be going for a Patron Saints of the UK theme!

In the end, Andrew James and Joel David were our final decisions, which fulfil our criteria above, and, most importantly, we both liked and felt they sounded good together as a pair (Andrew and James, Joel and David, and of course Andrew and Joel). They are traditional but not very popular right now, as far as we can tell. Some people had said to us that we might change our minds when baby was born, because we might think that he/she didn’t look like the names we had chosen. Although I can see how this might happen, we didn’t feel this way at either birth, so the names were given to our boys within half an hour of being born.

Although we didn’t choose the names specifically for their meanings, we were interested in what each of them meant before giving them to our babies, just in case they seemed a bit odd to us! Here’s a list of the meanings of each name:

  • Andrew – from the Greek name Andreas, which was derived from Andreia meaning “manhood, valour/bravery”.
  • James – English form of the Late Latin name Iacomus, which was derived from Iakobos, the New Testament Greek form of the Hebrew name Ya’aqov (Jacob) meaning  “holder of the heel” (Jacob was born holding his twin brother’s heel) or “supplanter”.
  • Joel – from the Hebrew name Yoel meaning “Yahweh is God”.
  • David – from the Hebrew name Dawid, which was probably derived from Hebrew dwd meaning “beloved”.

We were also aware of and interested in the roles of the men with these names in the Bible….

  • Andrew – he was one of Jesus’ disciples, brother of Peter, and fisherman before he decided to follow Jesus; he was the disciple who brought the little boy with five loaves of bread and two fish to Jesus so that he could feed thousands of people with them.
  • James – there are a few men called James in the Bible; two were disciples of Jesus – one was the son of Zebedee and one was the son of Alphaeus – the former we know more about, he was brother of John and was one of the disciples who witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration (a miracle which involved Moses and Elijah appearing next to Jesus and talking with him); the latter we know little about other than he was one of the 12 disciples; another James, probably the half-brother of Jesus, wrote the New Testament book of James, a letter which teaches us about various aspects of being a Christian.
  • Joel – he wrote the Old Testament book of Joel, a prophecy (or foretelling of what was going to happen in the future) for God’s people and the coming of Jesus as the Saviour of the world.
  • David – he was a king of Israel, and Jesus was a descendent in his ancestral line; as a boy he fought and won against Goliath the Philistine giant, and as an adult he committed both adultery and murder but sought and received God’s forgiveness; he was also the writer of many of the Psalms, songs of praise and lament to God.

I hope that one day the boys will be interested to know about the meaning of their names and about Biblical characters with the same names. At least this blog post will now serve as a useful starting point for me to come back to when we talk about it. If you have a child or children, how did you go about choosing their name(s)? I think it’s such an important job that we do as parents because they have to live with our decisions for a long time. I hope our boys will think we did a good job!

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