William Shakespeare once famously asked, “What’s in a name?” in his tragedy, “Romeo and Juliet.”
Since then, people have been asking the same question, in essence, to discover the nature of the thing or person carrying that name, as Romeo did under Juliet’s window that fateful night of their first meeting.
Many people who are involved in the “alternative” religions, such as witchcraft, alter their names to reflect their newly discovered spiritual selves.
Playing the name game can be a way to announce to the world one’s revamped identity, but it can also be a path to confusion, both for the named and the ones who bestowed the original name upon them.
Presumably, parents-to-be are filled with the joy of their new addition and select a name which reflects that joy, as well as other characteristics which they hope their newborn will represent.
Many names are selected from the Bible or other religious entities or ideas. To change these names suddenly, mid-stream as it were, seems to indicate a reluctance to recognize what one’s parents attempted to bestow, and in a way, dishonors them.
Besides, your mother is always going to call you Susan, despite the fact that you have chosen to go by Whoopi for show business reasons.
Soap opera names have always held a “cool” factor and seem to follow a pattern of being unusual or out of the mainstream, i.e., Blair, Dorian and Nash, to name just a few from my particular favorite daytime drama. Few memorable soap opera characters have the kind of names of people you actually know.
Some of the coolest names I have ever run across were native American names, especially those of the Lakota tribe (Sioux). But they were all family names, with regular first names – Pete Catches the Enemy, John Youngman Afraid-Of-His-Horses, and several other very colorful monikers – all come by honestly through their heritage.
Making a name change also reflects a sort of identity crisis, which finding a soul-satisfying spiritual path is, ironically, supposed to resolve.
Keeping one’s name despite a change in belief has benefits. First, it honors your parents and what they hoped for you before you were even born. After all, the oldest religion is all about honoring family elders, despite any perceived flaws they might have.
It also reduces any confusion which might result in the area of social security cards, checking accounts and the like.
But mostly, a name is who you are, who your parents wanted you to be and something to try to live up to, to honor them and yourself.