Names and Meanings

My dad many years ago, before I was born had some money. He bought some stock with a name on it that appealed to him emotionally. He let it sit in the safety deposit box and when I married Jerry, he told Jerry he still had the paper all these many years later. We checked it out and it had changed names and through the years had multiplied and was worth in the 1960’s about sixty thousand dollars. Dad had probably paid about several hundred dollars for it because he liked the name of the company.

So when it was finally cashed in about 1960, he had passed away and Mom had some extra security that she had only become aware of then. Names mean different things to various people. Parents name their children a name that they like. Many children do not like their given name and ask mom and dad, why did you name me that?

I have an unusual first name and I disliked it until I was eighteen. Then a magical thing occurred and all of a sudden I loved it. I could call up on the phone and say this is Elita, not even giving a last name. I could sign a register at an office and say Elita and no last name. I vowed that I would name my children regular names as I called them. So I did.

Jewish people name their newborns the name of a deceased loved one. If you had a grandmother named Sarah and you had a baby girl, you could name it Sarah or Sharon or Sophia or Sally.. The reason behind it was to have the deceased finally rest in peace because they were remembered. We also give the child a Hebrew name which was the deceased’s name. For instance, Sarah in Hebrew would be Sura, so the child is Sarah in English and Sura in Hebrew. The Hebrew name is used for certain occasions like birth, confirmation, marriage and death. Then the Hebrew name along with the English name is recited etc.

Now days, the young folks will name their child Sura in Hebrew but in English they will name her Ashley or Courtney or Madeleine. They do not stick with the same initial as they did in my time. So names change and customs change and attitudes change. However, the meaning is the same, still naming after a beloved and deceased person. You hope that the new baby will be the same kind of person as was named for, good, dear and smart. You would never name the child after a relative or friend that you detested.

My mother’s brother and his wife had a baby girl and the day before she was born, my uncle lost his sister. So the daughter was named after the father’s sister who had died the day before. Her name was Elizabeth and so the baby girl became Elizabeth but they tacked on the name of a relative who had lived to be ninety as the second name- Lois. The reason being that the first Elizabeth, the sister had died at an early age of thirty-eight and the new parents wanted to insure that their Elizabeth lived the long life of the second relative Lois.

When we ballroom dance, we learn the names of the dances. Some of the dances have sweet names and other dances have stronger names. The Paso Doble really sounds quite Spanish and elicits the feeling in you that you are in Spain and you are performing before the crowds and though there is no bull there, one can conjure up the bull’s photo in their mind. The Rumba signifies the romance of this Latin time and makes one feel a bit sexy.

The Bolero sounds like a piece of clothing, but it is not. The Bolero is a form of the Rumba and it also can be very sexy. The Waltz is something that one thinks of as doing at a wedding as a first dance. Ballroom dancers know that waltzes are a really neat and lovely dance to do especially with someone you care about. The Swing makes one feel young again especially if your age is seniordom. The Cha Cha evokes memories of having fun and movement and exercise. The Tango is known as a dance of love and controlled movement and very theatrical. My husband and I way back in the early eighties were advocates of the Hustle. We would go to the Hustle night spots and dance all evening non stop and only sitting down for a light dinner or a drink. I wonder how we lasted dancing non stop though of course we were forty years younger at that time.

Did you ever wonder if the dance steps in the Hustle had been called the Waltz, how we would react to a dance called that with the energetic steps of the Hustle? Suppose the Cha Cha had been called the Viennese Waltz ? How would our bodies be moving at that pace? If the Foxtrot had been called the Paso, would it have been as dignified?

So names evoke, stimulate, arouse and waken thoughts in our minds and bodies. Girls with male names (which are somewhat popular now) must have a hard time trying to be feminine. Girls named Sydney stir up masculine thoughts in my mind. I knew a man named Sydney in my working days and he was a wimp and or a nerd. He was nice and polite but if I meet a girl named Sydney, I see him. Of course, that is silly, but true.

Doctors cannot have a wimpy name because the patients will react negatively to him and not become his patient.  A doctor I knew many years ago had a rhyming name. His mom thought it funny to give him a name like Terry Cherry. When his name was called over the intercom at the hospital, patients and medical personnel always smiled. He was a great doctor but his name created fun and snickers. I had a endodontist (specialist in root canal work) whose name was Dr. Brave. Surely, one has to be brave when he goes to the dentist for a difficult tooth problem. 

There was a florist here in Baltimore, Maryland whose real name was Don Flowers. Very appropriate. There was an auction house company here called Dance Auctioneers. The owner's name was Jim Dance. That would be cute for a ballroom dance teacher. There was a gym teacher whose name was Lionel Run. He did like to participate in running marathons. There was a street here named Jurie Lane. Many lawyers happened to live on that lane. There was a development here called Pill Hill because many doctors and pharmacists lived there. Names can stand for something you live near, something you work at etc.

Names can affect how we dress. If we have a masculine name and we are female, perhaps we think of our self as not so girly or womanly. If we have a meek name, we may appear in our mind as meek when we really are strong. The same thing happens when we dance. If our teacher, by chance says ‘today you are really dancing like Ginger’ we all of a sudden become Ginger and our shoulders react and our feet fall into place and we float off and down the floor. If our teacher says ‘today, you are really dancing like a wallflower, then we become that wallflower.

The cardiologist getting ready to examine my heart and lungs and etc, said "come on over here beautiful." At that moment I became beautiful because he had said it. Of course, I am, but so what? The significance of that remarked fired into my mind a minute of beauty. Even if I had not looked good that day, I would have thought I looked good. All because a semi stranger, a medical person who himself is quite good looking said that word.

So names and words can beautify our lives whether we are seniors, children, young adults or really elderly. Words electrify and have been known to start wars. We should all learn to use our vocabulary to instill sweetness, goodness, happiness and joy. Whatever our given names are, we do not have to like it but we can make it a word of happiness. My firstborn’s middle name is Joy. That to us she has always been. If her second name had been Faith or Hope, that she would have been. If her name had been something other, I am sure she would have still been Joy. So always remember that someone’s name may evoke something in you and even if it is not lovely, still look at the person as if their name was Faith or Hope or Joy. Then it will be ours because we will have in our heart-faith, hope, joy and goodness.

When we ballroom dance let us remember that the name of the dance being played then can instill in us the desire to move our bodies and arms to the music because we know that the name of the dance controls our movement. Names are powerful and I believe there was a saying something like this:  A rose by any other name is still a rose.

So always remember if you can that names are powerful and potent. Elizabeth Barrett Browning said "How do I love thee, let me count the ways." We can count the ways we love to dance, love to perform, love to excel, love to feel great, love to be successful and most of all love we have taken up this hobby called ballroom dance and as we dance we feel as if we are really at a ball. The 'ball' is in our corner and as we round the corner of the room where we dance, we are in command of our body, our thoughts and our movements as we glance at our self in the mirrored wall and we know that we can 'name' our happiness at this moment because we use the word DANCE in our life. To dance is a powerful and beautiful name.

Elita Sohmer Clayman

March 2010

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Published by René Zgraggen
Montgomery, AL