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What's in a name?

Contributing writer

Each one of us has a name that was picked out for us because it had some family significance, the meaning of the name was important, or because it simply sounded good. Recently I was at an event where I was being introduced to people as “Jeremiah”, my preferred name, and a few times as I was leaving brief conversations individual’s said, “It was nice to meet you, Jeremy.”

Now there is nothing wrong with the name, Jeremy, it is a fine name; it’s simply not my name. This experience and ones like it got me wondering whether this situation is unique to me, or whether it is something that a lot of us deal with. I know when I meet someone introduced as “Robert,” I don’t call him “Bob”, and when I meet someone named “James,” I don’t call him “Jim”. To my knowledge no one has called our daughter Sadie, “Sarah,” If they did I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t respond.

I think what is at the heart of this is that as a culture we have become less interested in who a person is. I don’t have the exact figures in front of me but it goes something like this. In the 1950s each child in a community had 10 to 12 adults outside their immediate family who knew them by their first name. By 2000 that figure was down to about three to four adults. Now those numbers might be a little different for a community like ours, but the issue remains, we are not as invested in others as we used to be.

Imagine what our town would be like if we knew the other people around us. Do you know the names of the people that live across from you, to the right, the left, across the alley? If you go to church, do you know the names of the people in the pew behind you, in front of you, next to you? If you sit in the stands for sporting, do you know the people in the bleachers around you? I am amazed how many times in my life I have heard someone who was amazed that I remembered their name. When I call them by a version of their name they aren’t usually impressed, rather slightly irritated.

Now back to my original question, “What’s in a name?” I know my name means, “God will exalt.” I was named after Robert Redford’s character in the film Jeremiah Johnson. For me neither of those reasons are why I prefer to be called Jeremiah. I simply am Jeremiah. Let’s make an effort as a community to get to know the names of each other so that as we move forward we do so together. You will be amazed at the instant respect you will gain by calling someone by their name.

Last modified Feb. 9, 2012

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