What’s in a Name?
Did you ever have a nickname? I know I certainly did. When I was in grammar school, our gym teacher called me Touhy, or was that 2E, or maybe it was Too-ee… Problem was, I could never knew how to spell it so, believe it or not, tonight is the first time I have ever tried to write it down. My brother Doug was called Tous. Makes more sense to me than my nickname.
When my Dad was little, his friends called him “sunshine,” apparently because he was usually in a good mood. I remember the day that he told me about his childhood nickname – it was the same day that he was thinking about calling me “stormy weather.” Need I say more? I guess I wasn’t very agreeable in those days – hopefully, I have grown some since then.
And then there was the time that Janet’s family invited me to play tennis with them back in the mid-sixties at the Beverly Hills Racquet Club. Their family was really into tennis and I was asked to play with them. Janet and I were partners and played against her Mom and Dad. I didn’t know Mr. and Mrs. Boyd as well in those days, and Janet was not overly excited at having me as a partner. I remember that after a particular point was over, I called her “Janie” instead of Janet and she promptly turned around and let me know that only her Dad was allowed to call her that. I think it was thirty years before I ever tried that again. And if you notice it, I never call Janet “Jan” or any other derivative of her name – she just doesn’t go for it. Except, now, every once in a while, an affectionate “Janie” creeps out – I always wait to see if she is going to call me on it. Funny how we remember those things.
Of course, I have known many people who are referred to as “Doc” – in fact, that is the name I call each of my former seminary professors and sometimes I even get called that myself these days. Our kids all have nicknames that I gave them when they were born, but I think they would kill me if I mentioned them without specific approval to reveal them.
However, I can tell you that Kristin has adopted her own nickname over the last several years – Kiki….. that’s right, or even better, Dr. Kiki. Apparently, she always wanted to be named Kiki and so she has all but changed her legal name. Her nieces and nephews call her Aunt Kiki and the new home we are getting for her will be known as “Kiki’s Bungalow” – even though I like “Kiki’s Cottage” a little better.
The only person I ever knew who didn’t like nicknames was my Dad’s mother. She never used nicknames. In fact, that is why I was named Scott. My parents thought about naming me Gordon or Stewart, but they were two syllables and that meant that they could be shortened, which my grandmother would never do – so Scott it was. By the time my bothers were born, my parents had given up on single syllable names, so they became Douglas and Kenneth – Doug and Ken to all of us except my grandmother. One of my cousins, Jacqueline, was Lynn, or Jackie, to all her friends and family – except grandma. I think that’s why Dad and Mom settled on Scott for me.
So it should come as no surprise that on our recent trip to Hilton Head, I ended up giving nicknames to all the grandchildren who were with us. For some reason, it has become something of a bond. I am tending to use their alternate names more and more and the kids seem to really like it. They even gave me a name they like – “Big Jockey”. Someday, I may tell you how I got it, but for now, it’s a little embarrassing…… Somehow, nicknames are usually names of endearment, but there are cases where they were very practical – for example, Johnson was originally the name given to the son of John. Peterson and a number of other well known surnames all started out the same way.
Biblically, most people don’t know that God gave the job of naming all the animals to Adam. It is a little known fact that God didn’t name the animals Himself. But why didn’t God see fit to name everything? Because it is commonly accepted that having the naming rights to something is an indication of dominion – or authority over the named entity. And God wanted to make sure that man had dominion over the creatures of the earth and the beasts of the field. So, Adam was given the authority to name things. Even today, many thousands of years later, parents name children, as well as their homes, their boats and anything else they can think of. And we still think of naming rights as having dominion. And in the sports world, companies pay big money for naming rights on stadiums and other high profile buildings.
The verse for tonight is from Gen. 2:19-20, the first time we are told that God empowered Adam. The Scripture says, “Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.”
My encouragement is to affirm that God wants us to have dominion over the earth and all the creatures that are in it. And that is a sacred trust. It includes things like caring for God’s earth, the rest of the universe, the environment and everything connected with life in God’s creation. My prayer is that you will do your part to make sure that those things that have been entrusted to your care will be honored as gifts from God. After all, God has made us stewards of many of His most precious possessions, including our families. Please make sure that you make the most of every opportunity. Grace and peace,