Saturday, May 31, 2008

Naming and Freakonomics (Part X!!!)

Okay so Alaina left me a comment several days ago sending me to Freakonomics to read their chapter on baby names. And seriously Freakonomics has been everywhere recently for me. It was on Special Reserve at my library this quarter. Alaina's been posting about it and the Freakonomics blog. One of my Religion and Spirituality in Literature students said it was one of her most recommended and quoted books. And really who doesn't want to read about math used in freaky ways? I do, I do! So I checked it out from the library and here's what I learned:

Correlation does not equal causation. Actually I lied. I learned that from my Intro to Psych prof freshman year of college. But it's stuck with me, and it is a huge point of Freakonomics. If there's a correlation, it could mean three things: X causes Y, Y causes X, or Z causes X and Y. I think this is important in life and in naming. We are very quick to assign causation to related events even when correlation doesn't exist (superstitions). And spending a little time investigating all the factors will save one from serious misreadings of the facts. Why is this important in naming? Because we put a lot of emphasis on names and their relation to success in the future. The stereotypes that we attach to certain names are in fact stereotypes, and people break them everyday. My whole Maynard discussion was in fact wrestling with that reality.

And yet a huge part of me still wants to say what parents name their kids is important. And I think that leads to the second lesson: the name doesn't matter as much as the thought behind the name because putting thought into naming your child shows the love, care, and consideration that children need from their parents. I was named because it was the one name my parents' could agree on. It didn't have much familial significance. It does have some history, but they care enough to go several rounds over my name. And in the same way, they've fought to prioritize our family and keep it strong. And I hope the fact that I have baby names picked out YEARS in advance shows the commitment to my providing for whatever children I'm blessed with.

Third, and this is purely superficial. If you want to avoid dated names, don't pick trendy names. Pick popular names a couple steps up the social ladder. It helps you avoid the Britneys, Emilys, and Jennifers. (Not that these names aren't lovely--there's just A LOT of them!)

So naming from an economist's point of view. Overall it helped me let go of a lot of baby name worry and anxiety. (Yes, I worry about names for babies that aren't even twinkles in their father's eye. . . Oh I just got that phrase. . . oh dear.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Naming Part -1 becomes Naming Part IX

So I lied. Grey's Anatomy did have a naming event though it happened in the past. (Thanks, Alaina!) It's from a developing story line that began with the ferryboat arc* when a pregnant Jane Doe had her face squished beyond all recognition and amnesia to boot. Alex, the lecherous leech, manages to care for this Jane Doe even going so far as to name her Ava and basically falls in love with her the best he knows how. Well Ava remembers that she's Rebecca and her husband comes back to get her. Later on Rebecca comes back looking for Alex, they make a trip to the on call room, and just a couple episodes ago she comes back again saying she's pregnant. Izzie runs some tests and finds out she's not. Rebecca tries to get breast implants because she wants her body to match her face. Things are very very weird. And then Izzie tells both Rebecca and Alex that Rebecca's not pregnant and Rebecca snaps, barely functioning, practically catatonic snappage. Alex takes care of her in very sweet unlecherous ways, but it doesn't end well. Rebecca tries to slit her wrists, Izzie has to hospitalize her against Alex's wishes and in the midst of arguing totally fumbles over Jane Doe's name. Is she Ava? Is she Rebecca? We don't know. We find out she's been diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder that was pushed over the edge by all the ferryboat drama.

So that's the background (with lots of spoilers, sorry!). What's with all this naming? Well first Jane Doe as Jane Doe wasn't going to survive. Alex's naming grounded her and really was integral for her recovery. Even after she got back her memory, she clung to the identity she had as Ava. Ava and Rebecca were not the same person. They had different lives, different loves. When Izzie is running tests on Rebecca, Rebecca says she wants to start over and have a baby in a way that she had already had her baby in this hospital. She's totally dissociated herself from her husband and child.

I've always been fascinated by personality theory and identity development. According to Erik Erikson, identity formation is integral to moving on from identity vs. role confusion to intimacy vs. isolation. Because Ava's identity was tied up with her intimacy with Alex, she was codependent. It would have happened to anyone who wasn't borderline neurotic. In fact, I don't think they even needed that plot twist. You can just do the same thing with names.

*AKA when Grey's Anatomy tried to jump the shark. Sorry I'm still bitter about the end of Season 3, loyal, but bitter).

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Search for Naming (Part VIII)

You'd have to think about naming when you're confronted with a name like Indiana. Look what I found on VH1:

14. Don't Call Us Junior
What's in a name? Only our identity, self-worth and life story — all wrapped up in a neat little appellation. Forget what Shakespeare said: A rose by any other name just wouldn't smell as sweet. You call him Dr. Jones, lady, his professional name.

I watched Indy and the Temple of Doom yesterday and have a date to go see the new movie in about an hour. And while Shorty's reprimand was mostly for comedic effect, I'm intrigued by the reference to his professional name. It's a sign of respect--for the person, for the profession. I wonder how much we recognize names as a method of giving respect. I mean I know to refer to higher ups as Mr. or Ms. or Mrs., but currently my two superiors don't want the reference, yet we refer to the Dean of the Law School as Dean. In my online class, I've already shortened my professional name to Prof. NH for ease, but also because of the unease of the full title.

HT: PaleoJudaica

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Just in Case... (Naming Part -1)

Grey's Anatomy didn't have any overt naming references tonight. ;-)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Names on the View Part VII

This is getting out of hand. Actually the problem is that I am not being productive and watching TV instead. The women on "The View" talked about taking one's husband's name when they got married. Evidently it was very hard for Denise Richards to get her married name back because she didn't sign the right papers at the right time. They hit on all the issues I've been talking about, so I'm not going to go into it. But other people are talking about it too. Naming is EVERYWHERE!!!

You give _____ a Bad Name (Part VI)

Okay so I've been thinking more about Grandpa Maynard and his namesake and how a person can overcome a "bad" name. (It's in quotes because "bad" is incredibly subjective.) I mean look at Dwight D. Eisenhower (though he did go by Ike somehow). Dwight should be a very nerdy name and yet he was a cool politician and lots of people liked him. And so I wonder what does it take to overcome the stench of a "bad" name. Is it pure genetics over society? Is it the power of how much your parents love you over the teasing of your peers? Does it take a legacy to uphold like little Maynard? Most likely, it's all these things and more because children are so vastly unique and different. But I guess the good news is that it's possible.

More thoughts to blog about later: Are there neutral names?; The act of renaming in fiction; Baby names lists; Nicknames; The collective conscience in giving value to names;

I'll stop obsessing soon I promise.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Desperate Naming (Part 5)

So did you catch the big naming fiasco on TV Sunday night? It was the season finale of Desperate Housewives. Susan had her baby last week on Mother's Day (aw) and now they need to name him. As you might guess, naming children is huge for me. Odd considering that the story of my name is that it's the only girl's name my dad liked. But I have my girl's name picked out for my child that is years in the future. I can't decide on a boy's name. But I digress.

Susan, Mike, name for a boy. Anyway they're having trouble deciding and Mike's grandfather dies (I'm not sure on the timing) and so Mike starts thinking it would be great to name the baby after his grandfather. Susan thinks it's a great idea until she finds out it's not Grandpa James; it's Grandpa Maynard. Yep, poor kid. There's a great line about which nickname will be made fun of less "May" or "Nerd". So Susan sets out to change the name in her "Lucille Ball" way. Mike finds out, shares the heart-wrenching story of how Grandpa Maynard sacrificed everything to care for Mike, and they ultimately decide to stick with Maynard. It's a name to live up to and has value for that tv family. So the question I ask is how much value is intrinsic to a name and how much is added by the person who embodies the name? This series may go on for quite a while...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Naming Part IV

I'm working through Parker's Back by Flannery O'Connor for this class I'm going to teach online called Religion and Spirituality in Literature. The main character prefers to be called by his initials, O.E., or his last name, Parker. He recalls through narration that his full name is only listed on his navy files and his baptismal certificate. When his full name leaked out in the navy, he nearly beat someone to death. Here's someone who really doesn't like his name (who wouldn't if your name was a cheerleading chant "Ooeey, ooeey, oh. Ice, ice yeah" of Bring It On fame).

Anyway he tells his name to Sarah Ruth, the girl he would never like in a million years and who should really not like him, but they end up courting anyway and getting married. It's Obadiah Elihue. At which point, we pull out our trusty Accordance and Bibleworks software and do a quick search. Obadiah of course is a minor prophet, the minor-est of prophets really, with 21 verses. Obadiah, Jonah, Micah. Mostly has oracles against the Israel and the nations, but if you read Paul Raabe's Anchor Bible Commentary (over 300 pages), you can see there's a lot there. (PS Paul Raabe's doing the footnotes for the ESV study bible--wOOt LCMS!) Anyway Obadiah means "servant of God" roughly. Elihue is a bit more difficult. Well the meaning isn't--it's "God is he," but the reference is Elihu is a friend of Job's, the youngest one who thought it wasn't proper to speak until the older ones do. Elihu is the great-grandfather of Samuel. And a couple others. Is it meant to be anything more than obscure and therefore pious? Maybe not, but there might be something to be said for a guy who has been running away from what he's been called so long.

However, the part that really hit me was after his tattoo, when he's begging Sarah Ruth to let him back in. She asks who is it. And he says "Me. O.E." and she keeps asking and he keeps repeating. Finally, he says "Obadiah" and all the puzzle pieces start falling into place. "All at once he felt the light pouring through him, turning his spider web soul into a perfect arabesque of colors, a garden of trees and birds and beast." This perfect arabesque is what he's been trying to achieve through his tattoos. I really think the trees, birds, and beasts is a reference back to the perfection of the Garden of Eden, i.e. true and perfect union with God.

This naming, this acceptance of who you are called to be, sets things in place, makes things click, establishes one's worth, brings peace. And while some or even all of this applies in secular life, it becomes even more true when that name is "Child of God" or if you prefer to maintain uniqueness when your name is written in the Book of Life. I'm not sure if Parker gets there, but I have hope because the story ends with Sarah Ruth looking out at the man "who called himself Obadiah Elihue". I wish it was present tense or if we could read that as a past action that has effects into the future. I don't know, but it continues to highlight the impact of naming as it forms who we are.

Update: Misnumbered--this is part four...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Facebook funny

Too funny. Actually it's eerily similar to the "scare you out of ever driving" commercials that they showed at the Campbell County Police Citizen's Academy session I went to last night. Those were British too come to think of it. Facebook profile weeding might be in order.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

You know you want to...

Okay all you church workers, PKs, pastor's wives, Concordia grads, etc. it's time to step up to the plate. It's bible verse time. Certain to become a favorite time waster. I find myself thinking things like "the kingdom of God" that's from Luke because Matthew prefers "the kingdom of heaven" and "son of man" that's a distinguishing feature of Ezekiel. I'm glad four years as a Theology major, 2 years in the Sem grad program, 7 years translating random Hebrew verses, and not so many translating Greek are paying off.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Social Networking

I love the internet. I love facebook. I love blogs. I love gmail, google, googledocs, googlecalendar, gchat. I love youtube. I love librarything. I love the Ning. I am so in love with any aspect of social networking that I even joined twitter despite my misgivings about its true helpfulness. I don't think I'll have a very rooted life and even if I do current key players aren't going to be my neighbors as much I would love them to be so I feel like this social networks despite their amorphous nature keep me rooted in things I love. Anyway today on The Diane Rehm Show, the second hour was devoted to social networking and though I only could listen to the last 20 minutes of it because I was involved in physical social networking instead of cyber social networking. I highly recommend it. Diane Rehm doesn't know a whole lot about it so they break it down for all of us who are late-comers, and it seems to hit lots of pertinent topics. So check it out and then facebook me so we can chat about it. :-)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Bathroom Art

This was my weekend project. Actually it began last fall with the "abstract" painting and the purchasing of framing supplies. I used acrylic paint on watercolor paper (because that's what I had and I don't know any better). The acrylics were from a brand called chromacryl which were designed for students to learn how colors blend and such so they're fun to play with. I had two "colorways"--one leaning toward blue and the other toward green. Then I flattened the pages and left them for 4 months. Yesterday I cut the pages into 2x2 in. squares and played with them until I had a design and tacky glued them down. My one regret is that I cut out the black poster board before everything was settled and then I got a little off center. Maybe one day I'll rectify it, but until then I have color on my bathroom walls. Yay!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Naming Part III

Okay so I hyphenated my name about 9 months ago. And it's long and unpronounceable. I mean my maiden name was unpronounceable so it was unavoidable. But my husband's name shouldn't be hard, and everyone mispronounces it anyway. I know it's five syllables long. And there are a lot of consonants that like to run together. So when I've introduced myself, I've kind of been apologetic about it. You know, yeah I know it's hard to pronounce and I've just made it that much more difficult for you to remember my name, it's okay... mumble, mumble, mumble

But today my attention was called to the gold-medal holder of unpronounceable hyphenated names: Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza. Dr. Schussler Fiorenza was a president of the Society of Biblical Literature and is a prominent scholar in feminist theology. And it took me years to wrap my tongue around that German/Italian last name. While talking about one of Schussler Fiorenza's contributions to feminist theology, it was mentioned that she made known her preference of being referred to by her whole last name instead of just Fiorenza. I heard no apology, I heard no justification. It's her name, and that's what she should be called.

So I'm going to stop apologizing for my hyphenated name. It takes practice, but it's my name. And that means it deserves respect not apology.

Update: I added the part 3. We've got a series folks.