What’s in a name?

Posted by on January 15, 2012

It showed up in my Inbox one morning last week…a Google alert left over from the days when I was promoting my book and watching for mentions of my name or the book’s title in the media.  This time, though, the alert was a sombre announcement.  Apparently, I had died and was to be cremated in the coming days.

Fortunately, I am still upright and breathing; no disrespect to the dear lady with my name who is not.

Although it is a rather unsettling feeling to see my name on an online obituary, I’m getting a bit used to this alter-life. In recent years, I’ve given talks and written books and articles on mother-daughter relationships, bereavement and aging, harangued city council on garbage removal policies or pet by-laws, directed a church musical production, produced a documentary and sold real estate. I’ve been horribly beaten and set afire once and today, I stand in sister-solidarity with my namesake who had the courage to face her vicious attacker and see him sent to prison. I would like to meet her someday and give her a hug. I would like to tell her that when I read her story, I imagined her in my mind; that I prayed a spirit of courage into her heart from mine.

Interestingly enough, though, a number of me are writers, artists and educators (and some of us even look a little alike). I hold degrees in sociology, business, urban education and ‘organ performance’ (the last one I don’t publicize or like to talk about…or even think about, actually).

There were well over 100 of me on Facebook  when I stopped counting and if you Google me, you can wade through some 78,400 results. I’ve even had my own dance ensemble, which is quite a joke, as I’m notoriously klutzy.

Sometimes, I feel like a name-stalker online, but it fascinates me. Often, I have found the names of my friends to be an accurate reflection of their character or their appearance, so all this causes me to wonder…is there strength or self-fulfilling prophecy in a name?

Historically, families gave their children names that had special meaning. Sometimes they reflected the situations surrounding the birth, or the family lineage. Some waited days before naming to ensure they bestowed one that was appropriate for the child.

I can claim no such considerations. My mother named me after her favourite actress, Debbie Reynolds; however, once I married, my name was most associated with another actress…Deborah Kerr, who lay writhing shamelessly on a beach with Burt Lancaster in From Here to Eternity in the years when shameless writhing in public was frowned upon.

All glamour and fame aside, I actually refer to the Women of the Bible when in need of an inspirational namesake.  Deborah was a judge, prophetess and a warrior, which was quite an accomplishment for a woman back then.

Interestingly enough for me the writer, Debora is taken to be a diminutive of the Hebrew dabar, meaning “word”.  As a prophetess, Deborah would have been a wise listener and prolific speaker. Certainly, if she led an army, she had influence.

I like this, because I’ve always been a bit of a defender of the underdog (although I rarely speak up for myself), and I do have a soft spot of admiration for women who break the rules. I hope that I, too, have within me the character and courage to fight for what I believe in.

The most common meaning of Deborah, though, is “honey bee”, which terribly disappointed me as a child. Do you blame me?  What little girl would want a name meaning “bee” when she could be a “princess” (Sara) or “lovable” (Amanda)?

Sorry....this is the closest I could come to a honeybee. I believe it is some sort of hornet.

But, as time passed, I gained heart with the realization that bees are great community activists. They are industrious, steadfast, very clean, and work together for a common good. In a bee colony, the female is the worker; she gathers the  pollen, constructs the comb, tends to the queen and the young, and defends the hive. (Alas, the male drones are kept only for reproductive purposes.)

All this actually ties in rather nicely with the qualities of Deborah the Judge, who tended to the needs of her people, shared her strengths with them and led them to victory. There have been times in my life, when I found encouragement or affirmation in the meaning of my name…almost as if it gave me something solid to live up to.

It’s all quite enlightening, I must say…and certainly worth a little research, to see if you are living up to all your name implies.  Tell me…what is in your name?


“Before I was born the Lord called me;
from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.”
~Isaiah 49:1

6 Valued Thoughts on What’s in a name?

  1. Elephant's Eye

    My father always used to say to me – Great is Diana of the Ephesians – I had to grow up some to realise what he was on about. He was raised Methodist, but I don’t remember him as a church-going man. And as for Diana the huntress, I’m a vegetarian! Perhaps I can refer to wildlife gardening amongst our trees.

    • Deborah Carr

      I’ve read that Diana preferred living in the wild woodlands and high mountains with the animals…does this seem more like you?

  2. Rhonda Bulmer

    My name is of Welsh origin, coming from the Rhondda Valley, and the Rhondda River in Wales. Meaning “good spear,” or “noisy.”

    Wow, I’m a loud sword. So that means when I slice something (or someone) in half, I do it very loudly.

    Guess I should be writing medieval stuff.

  3. Susan

    Susan means “lily” in Hebrew. Lilies always make me think of Easter. As an Anglican nun, I find it comforting to have a personal name that reminds me of the Resurrection of Jesus. My name within my religious community is “Magdalen”, which makes me think of Mary Magdalene who was the ultimate disciple, who stayed when everyone else had deserted him.

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