Designer Names

Baby girls are cute, baby boys are for real. That’s the message Richard John Neuhaus sees behind the trend in baby names, a trend he’s been tracking for years. In a recent article in the journal First Things, Neuhaus writes that if we go by names, it appears that parents take their sons more seriously than their daughters. Neuhaus found that parents tend to grace their baby boys with names with clear biblical or religious significance—names like Michael, Christopher, Jonathan, Daniel and John. But Neuhaus says that parents are giving their daughters “cute, toy-like names—names of jewelry stores and soap stars.” Among them are monikers like Tiffany, Brittany, Ashley, and Samantha. Few parents are giving their girls names that reflect character like Prudence, Constance, and Faith or biblical names like Ruth and Elizabeth, writes Neuhaus. “As reflected by the names chosen, people obviously take boys more seriously than girls,” Neuhaus writes, and he adds: “Maybe it’s not among the top ten problems in American society, but I can’t squelch the suspicion that it’s not unimportant.” According to the experts, Neuhaus is right. Names are far more significant in shaping our characters and personalities than many of us realize. Susan Seligson writes in Redbook magazine that “an increasing amount of research suggests that our names and our destinies may be inexorably intertwined.” Often, Seligson says, the prophecy in a name becomes uncannily self-fulfilling. For example, one study showed that girls with exceedingly feminine names like Lucy and Rose “did in fact have more girlish personalities.” And although it’s hard to prove,” she says, “our personalities may also evolve to fulfill the subtle mandates our names carry.” Amy and Leon Kass, professors at the University of Chicago, write in First Things that the naming of children is an expression of the parents’ best hopes and dreams. Parents may memorialize a worthy ancestor, historical figure, or biblical character, hoping certain qualities associated with that person will rub off onto the child. In Scripture a person’s name was often intimately linked with what God planned to do with his or her life. For example, at the command of the Archangel Gabriel, our Lord was named Jesus, which means “God will save us.” According to Amy and Leon Kass, the act of naming imparts a blessing to the child whereby parents “dedicate themselves to the work of making good the promise conveyed in the good name thus bestowed.” This means that Christians, of all people, need to name their children with care and deliberation. If we desire to raise a godly seed, as the Puritans put it, we need every resource available to us, including names that point to the kind of character we seek to instill in our children. Of course, what we name our children is not nearly as important as how we rear them. We need to teach our kids how to make good names for themselves, whatever their given names may be. Most important of all, we need to teach our Michaels and Jonathans, and our Tiffanys and Ashleys how to identify their own names with the name above all names—Jesus Christ.


Chuck Colson


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