Sunday, March 6, 2011

What's in a name

How did Isaiah get his name?

I wish I had a clear and compelling tale on that one. It's not quite as straightforward as Nathaniel, shall we say. With Natty, Michelle and I liked that his name was rooted in New England nomenclature, which, since we live in the region, gives him a sense of place. We also thought it was unique, without being kooky or contrived. Further, we liked any diminutive form of the name – be it Nathan, Nate, Nat, Natty or whatever else someone can conjure. And we couldn't think of any derivative that a mean-spirited child could dream up that could inflict verbal wounds. Meanwhile, his middle name is Ames, which is where Michelle and I met in Iowa. Another ringing sense of place.

Looking at the defense above, I guess we thought about his names a lot more than I had realized. We're pretty satisfied with what we did, and we hope Nathaniel will be, too, that he will love his name.

Isaiah's name doesn't have as rich a story. I will say it did come organically, just as Nathaniel's name did. In other words, we consulted no baby books, nor did we bounce potential names off family or friends. We definitely did not survey athletes, celebrities, U.S. presidents, pop magazines or other familiar depots of naming ideas. I admit that I would look at the births section of our local newspaper to see what names were in vogue, but I did not consciously consult it for ideas. Michelle and I would lob a name at each other from time to time and await the other's response. It was pretty easy to divine which names were either immediately tossed (Oliver, Abijah, Duane, etc.) which ones received a tepid response (Henry, Paul, etc.) and then those that we both liked and made a so-called finalist list. (I won't share them with you, since you never know.)

Isaiah, it's safe to say, was one of the names we both liked. I'm not entirely sure why. I've liked the ring of the name for a long time, and, well, it just seems like a fitting name for an athlete. Don't get me wrong, I am NOT buttonholing him or Nathaniel into sports in any way. I will be happy with whatever they pursue (especially science), so long as they use their minds and they're contributing to societal progress or the common good in a meaningful way. Michelle, I believe, initially was lukewarm to Isaiah, perhaps because of my thinly-veiled athletic infatuation with it. She likes it now, and it helps that it's unique and has been around for at least the last 2,000 years, as a book in the Bible will attest. It's a name that has stood the test of time.

Isaiah's middle name, Paul, is a nod to family. Michelle's grandfather on her mother's side was Paul, and he was a genial, honorable man. The quintessential typical Iowan, I'd say – a farmer who worked hard and made little fuss, doted on his daughter and listened to his wife.

So, that's how Isaiah got his name. We hope he loves it, too, because it all came out of love for him.

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