What Are You Called?

May 21st, 2012 § Leave a Comment

The last few posts have been about naming your child. It is the first thing you will give your daughter, your son. I am of the opinion that giving a child a name is not some recreational activity for us, the parents. It’s not a canvas for some sort of self-expression. It’s not an opportunity to pay tribute to something we think noteworthy. And not something we give our child so that everyone will think, “Wow, your name must mean that your parents are cool.” I’m not saying every name needs to be steeped in meaning. For each of our kids, their names were chosen at least in part for the way they sounded. We liked the name.

With these latest posts along the theme of Naming, I’ve wanted to set the stage from which I might suggest to you, fathers, that our role in giving a name goes beyond bestowing on our children a good name. There seems to be an era, and perhaps a region that have long passed and/or shrinking in which a common question for us was posed in an uncommon way: “What are you called?” The setting in my mind has cowboy hats, horses, open plains, and a banjo plucking in the background. None of this is familiar to me (As an aside, nothing looks more comical than a Asian man in a cowboy hat), so I admit I cannot speak with any authority on matters this far country. I think it’s a safe bet, however, that where or whenever this question was commonly posed it was heard as the equivalent of our, “What’s your name?”

Regardless of what I suspect as the intent, the outdated wording highlights for me an interesting distinction. Allow me to further highlight the distinction by posing yet another question: “I know that’s your name, but what are you called?” You see, a person can have a name but be called something else. An alias. Nickname. All the way to what a person believes him/herself to be: Great, True, Beautiful, Brave, Smart, Dumb, Ugly, Liar, Useless.

To you fathers, I propose that your job of naming does not end with bestowing on your child a good name. You are an important, dare I say primary voice in determining what they will be called.

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