What’s Your Name? (Who’s your Daddy?)

Almost immediately after something is created or discovered it is given a designation, a title—a name. The only exception to this would be the brooding artist who doesn’t want to name their artwork. (Ironically, their piece ends up being titled “Untitled,” so the joke is on them.)

But nowhere are names more important then when they are assigned to people. Some parents name their children after relatives as a way to honor or continue a legacy. Others choose names based on what has a nice “ring” to it. Then there are those who are named because their number is up. I fall into this third category.

My parents named me Dallas. That’s right, Dallas, as in ‘Texas,” “The Cowboys,” and the popular, prime-time soap from the 1980s. I got my name a few hours after I was born. Up until that time, my parents couldn’t decide on a name. They threw around “Adam” for a while but they weren’t sold on it. While still in the hospital, my mother, in frustration decided to go for a walk. Before she left, she threatened my father to “find a name for this boy or so help me!” My father frantically went through the book of baby names but found nothing. His anxiety grew as he heard footsteps coming down the hall and a shadow creep under the doorway. He knew that behind that door was a tired and hormonal woman ready to pounce. In desperation, he plopped the book down and let the pages fall open. He drew his finger and blindly pointed at the page. “Dallas” is where it landed (It could be worse, he could have landed on “Jeeves.” If so, I would have an entirely different career path).

Despite all the quips that come with a geographical name, I am happy that I have it. It is unique, and having a unique name has its benefits. For one, I have top pick of usernames when I create an email address. Best of all, the pressure is off. I have no namesake to live up to! On the contrary, I have the opportunity to create a namesake and legacy for my descendants. I have a responsibility to live in such a way that my descendants will be forced to consider “Dallas” as a possible option to name their kids (and I get to laugh from the sidelines as my progeny’s classmates learn that “Dallas” spelled backwards is “salad” with an extra “L”).

On an upcoming episode of The Generations Project, middle-school teacher John Searcy embarks on a journey into his family history to discover his namesake and legacy. Watch his episode to see what interesting things he finds out about the power of a name.

And speaking of the power of a name, how does your name influence your life? Or do you subscribe to Juliet’s observation that, "That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet"?


Adrienne | April 23, 2010 at 1:10 PM

Salad with an L.

Jean-François de Buren | May 1, 2010 at 8:43 AM

I have had an interesting journey with my name. A name like Jean-François is not very common in the U.S., so as you can imagine it has been butchered most of my life. I have lost track on how many dear Ms. junk mail letters I have received over the years. There were times as a boy at grammar school, when I wished my name could have been John or Steve. As an adult I am more aware of my proud European heritage and feel my name suits me. As a boy I wanted to blend in, but as an adult I appreciate being able to stand out.

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