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What's In A Name?

Jakob Owens - Unsplash image

While discussing how much my Mom enjoyed hanging with her grandchildren and great grandchildren on Christmas, she shared with me that my nephew RJ has 9 kids. The most recent of his children, he named “Royalty” who is a girl and “Famous” who is a boy. Famous’s middle name is Elvin, my father’s name, so he’s also named after his great-grandfather.

At first, I was like “whoa” and the more I thought about these names, I had to admit how cool it would be to be named Famous. If nothing else, everyone will be talking about the fact that that is your real name and isn’t that a part of being famous - everybody talking about you. As for Royalty, she will probably get called something with fewer syllables like Ro or Royal. Two syllables or less seems to be what people can handle. Tiffanie becomes Tiff, My sister Lori, we call Lo. Stepanie becomes Steph and even Famous will end up being called Fame!

Does my nephew RJ see these names as aspirational? Will his so named children see them as such? In their minds, Royalty will = Me and Famous will = Me! They’ll just see those words as “meaning” themselves. They likely won’t realize the meanings everyone else ascribes to these words until their vocabulary expands. What happens when Royalty and Famous realize their names are actually words used in everyday life and have arguably lofty definitions. Will they embrace the ideas of royalty and famous for how they choose to live their lives?

Will their friends and the people they interact with embrace the ideas of royalty and famous when developing relationships with them. What about their teachers, their close and extended family? How will other people’s biases about these names affect how they judge and treat Royalty and Famous and how will this affect how Royalty and Famous see themselves.

My name is Jerry and growing up, I rarely knew of any other Jerrys. I never wondered what my name “meant”. It was my name and that was that. Jerry Lewis was a huge celebrity when I was growing up and I never mentally made any “connections” between him and I. I think this was because I knew him as Jerry LEWIS, not just Jerry and "Jerry Lewis" is a brand.

I am known as JB to many people but most call me Jerry. I have always felt the need to stake my claim, to stand out, to be recognized and so I began to embrace the use of my middle initial “L” once the internet allowed me to discover that there are many Jerry Burrell’s roaming the planet. Jerry L. Burrell is my brand and like with every brand that exists, it comes with “meaning.” This meaning is in the eye of the beholder, of course. Professionally, I am creative, athletic, smart, thorough, etc. Those who know me well would agree with those traits but could easily add more like stubborn, self consumed, contrarian, etc. All brands have a public facing “meaning” which their manufacturers have carefully crafted for public consumption. They also have traits that those who know them well are familiar with and these are usually not so glamorous.

Companies spend unbelievable sums of money figuring out what to name their products and services. They form committees and hire consultants and it can take months or even years to choose the name that fits. They obviously believe there is something important about what you name something.

Really though, we are now in an age where young people spend more time than ever thinking about what to call themselves when they pick their “user names”. Social media makes everyone who uses it more brand conscious. "King", "Man" and "Honor" are becoming more common names parents choose for their babies and just a short scroll session through Instagram or Twitter will reveal the lengths people will go to stand out or show how clever they are. As I consider this, I wonder will any one even blink an eye when they are introduced to Her Majesty my niece and her celebrity brother?

Probably not.

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