What’s in a Name?

Stimulus package. Bailout. Writers know that the names we choose have power. 

That became very clear as I began my first day teaching writing residency at Discovery High School in The Dalles, Oregon. The students and I wrote about our own names– their history, why our parents chose them, whether we have shortened or changed them. Some of us have been gifted nicknames by our friends or loved ones–new names that speak to our connections with one another. 

As we read our writing, we learned details about one another that may have never come up in casual conversation–about names that are taken and then changed as families change, about our ethnic roots and customs of our native countries, about who knew in great detail about why their names were chosen and about others who didn’t have a clue. 

In my own wiritng, I shared with the class that my Danish nieces call me “Fasta Lori” which means “my father’s sister”. Unlike my own sons who have difficult time keeping their aunts and uncles from each side of the fmaily straight, my Danish nieces know who I am. The woman whose Christmas picture is up on their fridge halfway around the world is their father’s sister.  

Despite my nieces efforts to teach me more of their language , the only Danish phrase that has really stuck in my mind is  Fasta Lori. Like my youngest niece whose first English word when I met her in America was was “cookie” , Fasta Lori is easy on my tongue and sweet in my mouth. It means love and connection that reach across an ocean and beyond words.

What is the origin of your name?  Are you named after a family member? A famous person? Do you like your name? Hate it?  How has your name shaped your  image of yourself?


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