Abraham. When you hear that name, you think of the biblical patriarch or perhaps Abraham Lincoln. In Quebec, a historic battle took place on the Plains of Abraham in 1759 during what Americans call the French and Indian War. Surely the plains were dedicated to a famous Abraham.
Not really. Originally grazing land, it was named after Abraham Martin, a fisherman and river pilot. Probably born in France, he was nicknamed “the Scotsman” – no one knows exactly why. There is also a street and a stretch of coast bearing his name … he certainly meant something to somebody. As one of the earliest settlers in Quebec, he left a lasting impression.
Names are important. Prospective parents can spend a great deal of time picking just the right name. Depending on whom you ask, the most popular names for babies this year are Liam and Emma (BabyCenter) or Asher and Imogen (Nameberry). By the way, Abraham didn’t make either top 25 lists.
Such decisions can be gut-wrenching. Do you use a family name, a biblical name, a historical name, a popular name? Sometimes names are discarded because they remind us of people we couldn’t stand. Sometimes we realize that everyone we know has a kid by that name. Sometimes a name is just wrong. How many little girls do you know named Jezebel?
Although you can have your name legally changed, most of us stay with what we have. We become responsible for making our names stand up. When people think of us, they don’t think too much about how we got our names. They do think about what we have made of our names.
It is said of Alexander the Great that he used to hold audiences for his soldiers for either reward or punishment. One soldier could become extremely wealthy if he displayed great courage. Another soldier could be summarily executed if he showed cowardice or dereliction of duty. On one occasion, a young soldier was brought before his commander-in-chief to answer for his actions. Caught up in the heat of battle, he had thrown down his weapons and run away. Broken and bowed, he fully expected the worst. The exchange supposedly went this way:
Alexander the Great: “What is your name?” Soldier: “Sir, my name is Alexander.”
Alexander the Great: “You either change your name or change your conduct.”
The young man was given a second chance to live up to his name.
What’s in a name? Ultimately we have a lot to say about that.