I recently read a fun and interesting post over at Sizzling Toward Sixty about why parents give a particular name to a child and go to thinking about the naming of people, objects, experiences and feelings in general.
Take my own first name for example. It is Juhlin and I do know why I have that name. My maternal grandmother died when my Mom was about 5 after being in a TB sanitarium for several years. Her name was Sophie Juhlin Anderson Duncan, but she went by Juhlin which was her mother's maiden name and is Swedish. With me so far? So I was named Juhlin after her with the middle name of Mary after my Mom's beloved stepmother's middle name. The reasons are loving, but my name has caused confusion most of my life.
I didn't even know that was my fist name until I entered junior high! I was called Juli which had little connection spelling wise but still had to be spelled as it wasn't Julie. Eventually I changed it to Juhli to make it easier to explain since I always had to spell it anyway! I used to receive mail addressed to Mr. back when people who didn't know you still tried to guess. It doesn't happen anymore of course as those titles aren't used by strangers.
Interestingly last names weren't even consistent in Sweden until a 1901 law required people to pick a last name to be passed on to future generations. Before that they were a variation of your father's first name, a reference to where you lived or your occupation or perhaps a nickname. People could and did change their last name during their life. It sure make genealogical research a challenge.
My first name isn't a common last name in Sweden though. However, as a side note, when I lived in Seattle there were several people in the phone book with the last name of Juhlin. In addition, my freshman year roommate's father was of Danish heritage and his first name was Julin which was a random coincidence. He had only met one other person with a similar first name and it had some 3rd spelling variation. I can't find any information about what Juhlin means but apparently it is most common as a last name in Sweden, Denmark and the US.
Not surprisingly, I gave my sons simple one syllable first names! My granddaughter though has a first name that is usually a boy's name so the cycle continues.
That 16 month old granddaughter is at the stage of language development where she wants to know the names of objects. I remember that stage with my own children. The frequent "what's that?" barely intelligible question in a tiny little voice accompanied by pointing or actually carrying the object over to ask about it. We have been told she is carrying things to her day care teachers and asking for the name. Vocabulary building in action. She understands a lot as a result but isn't saying much yet. Her most consistent naming so far is "baba" for bottle and "daaaa" for dog. She sure has dogs figured out and tries to pet ours through the phone when we Facetime with her. Absolutely much more interested when we show the dog's face than when we show our own LOL.
But in general naming seems to really help us cognitively and socially. The tricky part comes when we feel we have accurately named our experience or feelings. Those words often tend to mean something different to other people and thus the ongoing challenge of communication.