I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

What's In A Name?

Delores E. Topliff

Shakespeare said, “A rose by any other name will smell as sweet.” But will it?
Names are designating words by which we know and identify people, places, and things. John the son of John becomes John Johnson (I had an uncle by marriage named that). Names can indicate professions, like Carpenter, Baker, Smith, or Shepherd.

Some places are named for famous people, like the real towns of George, Washington, or Astoria, Oregon, for famous German-American founding entrepreneur, John Jacob Astor.

Since Norman French times in England My last name, Topliff, indicated a family living at the top of a Yorkshire cliff. I tease that it’s spelled more simply now because there erosion made the “c” fall over the edge.

Alexander the Great named thirteen cities for himself, though the one we know best today is Alexandria, Egypt.

Companies can be named for inventors, like the Ford Motor Company, or Smith and Wesson. Ships are sometimes named to honor people like the Queen Elizabeth the II, or the Santa Maria.

We may buy real estate and christen it Happy Acres or Retirement Bliss. People get inventive with pleasure craft names like Lazy Days, or Our Children’s Inheritance.

It’s a travesty that the name of Bethlehem Hospital in London long ago got contracted to “Bedlam” and now stands for the mentally ill people treated there. Similarly the word “gossip” came from “Gospel,” meaning “Good news,” though that's seldom the case now.

There are real towns with names I’d love to explore, like Nowthen or Embarrass, MN, Coffee, MS, Chicken, AK, and many more. It’s a privilege to choose perfect names for children or pets. It’s even fun inventing names for characters and places in stories or books we write.

A friend once overhauled my car and warned me not to drive far because he couldn’t vouch for its reliability. It safely drive a thousand miles each way to a church convention and back, but I pranked him by phoning and saying I’d broken down in fictional, “Houndstooth, Kentucky.”

The names of people dearest to us often end up being our favorite names of all. Rose? Maybe no contest. Thorn? Probably a far different association.

Which names mean the most to you? What would you name your future vacation getaway or retirement haven?

“A rose by any other name will smell as sweet” . . . but I’m not sure it always does.


  1. There is Toad Suck Days in Toad Suck Arkansas, for vacationers! My second step sons middle name is Afamefune ( in the Nigerian Igbo language) = May my name never be forgotten or something like I shall be famous like a house hold name. Sad really, because his passport has the middle name Emmanuel~ because he could not remember his middle name! Hahahahhah! Good job sister, great conversation.

  2. Been through Toad Suck. :-) Love this post. And that the 'c' dropped over the cliff in your name.

  3. When I was born my parents agreed on the name Havilah, but when people visited and they announced my name was Havilah, everyone looked at them like they were crazy and and kept asking, "What's her name again?" They didn't want me to have to answer that question constantly for the rest of my life, so they changed my name to Andrea.

  4. My boys have parts of their dad's name...oldest son has Hubby's first name as a middle name and youngest son shares Hubby's middle name. When I create my characters, I look up the meanings of their names because I want their names to reflect their personalities in some ways. I love creating fictional names for my settings too. I think my future beach house is going to be called Serenity.

  5. Thank you. I appreciate each of these good comments.

  6. I love the house name hidden in the rafters of Willard porters house in the Mitford series...Winterpast. something about the name brings tears to my eyes.
    It's from the quote..love the winter is past...
    Although I dearly love winter..somehow the thought of it being past sparks my soul with hope and longing.
    All my girls names were picked carefully and prayerfully...and all have strong warrior references.
    My own name..meaning grace or lily always seemed like wishful thinking on my mom's part...until I Began to pray for my life to reflect his grace...
    That was fun, Sister D! Please don't blame me for my phone's corrections! Lol

  7. When I was born I was named Raquel after Raquel Welch, but when birth certificate was filled out, whomever put Rachel.I have been called Rachel not Raquel since. I always wondered why. Why not still pronouce it as Raquel is pronounced? Who knows...

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  9. Well, I've often sung that hymn "Jesus is the sweetest name I know", and while that's true, the names of my precious children will always resonate with a special joy in my heart. On the other hand, naming characters in my stories is such fun, and I spend a lot of time considering it. By this time in my life, the word "rose" has many connotations so I couldn't bear to have it renamed!