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James R. Stout

What's In A Name?

            What’s in a name? Jim Croce sang about the mere fact that he had a name. His name meant something. But names have come and gone through the centuries. I’ll be speaking of English names in this little piece. Around the time that I was born there were some favorite names that our parents gave us. For the girls it was names like Sharon, Karen, Sally, Judy, Penny, Ann, Barbara, Debbie, Donna, and many more. For the guys it was names such as John, Robert, James, Harold, Charles, Andrew, Carl, David, Edward, George, and many more. There were a few lucky kids who got newer “cool” names such as Steve, Keith, Kevin, Jennifer (once considered a risqué name), Sherry, Gina, and Tammy. I can remember there were some names that were considered “old” names and you pretty much didn’t know any kids with those names. Names such as Mildred, Grace, Velma, Sybil, Henry, Harry, Arthur, and Clarence come to mind.

            Then there were middle names. These often became the name that a person was more commonly known by. I’m a hybrid of that situation. I was named James Randall Stout. My mother wanted to give me a name from the Bible, but she also liked a fairly new name and she wanted her son to be called “Randy”. Therefore, to most of my friends and family I am called Randy. It’s not even my official name though! It’s a nickname for Randall. Some middle names just naturally went with the first name. Down south it wasn’t unusual for someone to be known by a variation of their first and middle name. My sister was Barbara Ann. Bet you can’t keep that song from popping in your head now! There was Betty Sue, but she couldn’t hold a candle to Peggy Sue. I’ll get more into it in a second, but a nickname for William was Billy and Billy got a real workout in the name department. There was Billy Joe, Billy Bob, and good ole Billy Ray.

            I would be remiss not to discuss the nicknames that have fairly well erupted from more formal names. Let’s start with Robert. Robert is afflicted with a multiple personality. He could be Robert when at a formal dinner, Bob by his fishing buddies, Rob by Laura or any such maid, and when he’s drunk, he’s just plain ole Burt. James may be called such when he is the master’s chauffer, but when he’s out playing sports, he’s Jim. Jim may not be quite long enough at times and when this happens, he becomes Jimmy. Harold is a prince of a guy until he gets to fussing and fighting and he becomes Harry when that happens. Sometimes when Harry is displaying his knack for being crude, he’s Hairy. Perhaps the queen of nicknames is Elizabeth. When she’s wearing her crown, she’s Elizabeth. But to her best friend she’s just Beth. To the boys she may be known as Liz and to that special boy she’s Lizzie. To her mother she may be called Bethie, and then when she wants to sing and dance, she is called Liza. Let’s not forget our old friend Thomas. He’s also known as Tom and Tommy. Unless he’s a she and then she’s known as Tommie. Tommie must be first cousin to Jonnie and Billie.

            In the late 40’s a new thing started with made-up names. Tab, Rock, Piper, and Dash come to mind. Dash was completely fictitious as he was a cartoon character in The Flintstones. But then later in the 70’s Dash was half of Seals and Crofts. Go figure. Made up names of today hurt my head. I forget now who said it in some movie, but “What’s a Moesha?”. My mother got to choose her own middle name when she was 14 years old. She had not been given a middle name at birth and when they finally went to get her birth certificate, she was told she could give herself a middle name. The Andrew Sisters were very popular at the time and Mom chose Laverne who was one of the three sisters. Which reminds me of a 2nd cousin of mine who was named Lavielle. It’s pronounced “Lav-ee-ell”. Must be French.

            But seriously, what’s in a name? I could mention a few names and you would likely have a mental image of the kind of person that would have such a name. Dare I mention Donald? A.K.A. Don, Donny, and POTUS. While some names carry a connotation that could be good or bad, the fact is that in our own little worlds, the world where we are known, our names reflect our actions. The guy down the street isn’t just Tom. He’s Peeping Tom and you keep your daughters away from that guy. My Dad had a good friend back in the 60’s whose name was Steel. Seriously, he was named Steel. He grew into that name. He was as honest as they come, and his word was like steel. There was a guy in school that nobody liked because he was a bully and very crude. To the small group of people who knew that guy back then, his name of Conrad was a four-letter word. Nobody wanted to be like Conrad.

            I mentioned at the beginning that Jim Croce sang about having a name. I understand that a lot more now than I did when I was 18. Over the years we all become known in our own little worlds for our actions and how we treat each other. I can only hope that when people hear my name that they have a good feeling about it. I hope that I leave my grandchildren a legacy of having a grandfather who had a “good” name. Next time you go to a cemetery take a close look at the headstones. There may be a Bible verse or something loving about the person that is buried there. There will be a birth date and a death date. But the main thing on that headstone is the person’s name. When we leave this Earth the only thing of importance that we leave behind is our name and what it meant to those who knew us. The fact is that when our names go on that headstone it’s too late to alter the impression of who we were and the name that we leave behind. The time to do that is while we are still here. One other thing. In the Bible, the Book of Life is mentioned several times. The only place that it really matters as to whether or not our name is written somewhere is in the Book of Life. You most definitely want your name to be in the Book of Life. If you want to know how to have your name written in the Book of Life, then read the following scriptures:

Romans 3:23, Romans 5:8, Titus 3:5, Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 6:23, Romans 10:9-10, and John 3:16.

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