While that's certainly true, when we choose names for our childen or pets or characters in a novel, those names are too precious not to take seriously, even cautiously. Learning about the birth of a boy or girl, the question is usually: "What's the baby's name?"
To name is power. And it's not always naming a baby or pet. Learning the name of a disease often relieves anxiety even when the news is not good. To name is to have power; however weak, it's something.
As for naming babies, fashions change. When we hear Humphrey or Hepzibah, Ulysses or Bertha, we calculate we're perhaps in the 19th Century. We find old-fashioned names odd to silly to impossible.
Virgil was one of the most celebrated Roman poets; Homer has a place of honor as the greatest of the Greek poets. Why wouldn't parents want to name their children after humans who must surely be just this side of Godhood? In days gone by, teachers in school houses taught children from very young to teenagers about Virgil and Homer, along with materials unheard of in today's classrooms. But I've digressed - you'll find I do that too often. I apolgize. Back to naming.
It has been traditional in some families to name offspring after themselves - family names - a baby boy, Junior, his own son given the Roman numeral II and called Floyd Mighty Distinctive the Second. The number may even go to Fourth: IV. I've never met a Fifth: V. By that number the patriach of the family has likely died and then Junior becomes Senior and the business begins all over again. These families quickly find nicknames to end - sometimes increase - the exercise.
Today's names continue interesting. There will always be faddish names. There will always be regional names. If Jane is popular in America's Midwest, it might be Kinsey Jane in the South. Regions in the same country have their own ideas of what is right and proper for babies, sometimes forgetting that babies eventually become adults. A baby named Jim-Bob will be Jim-Bob forever. I know men who were named Tom and Hank instead of Thomas and Henry, their mother figuring that's what they'd be called and cut right to it.
The internet is loaded with hilarious to jaw-dropping names. And the list keeps growing.
As well, we might want to consider our last names and arrange first and middle names to match - or at last not be unfortunate. For instance, what were the parents thinking whose last name was Darling and named their son Welcome Baby? (I confess I've used it in my upcoming novel, A Taste for Truth.)
I've met people named Baby Ruth and O Henry (not the author who died before I was born). And a fellow whose last name was Barr, his first name Clark. I mean! (You've never had a Clark Bar?)
What is the problem with today's names? Once we're finished with Taylor, Tyler, Tiffany, Brittany . . . And why would anyone name a child Sean when his last name was Finkelstein? Why not Yusef or Schlomo?
Now that you've seen what a crank I can be, there's another item about names and how we can change ourselves by changing what we are called. I'm not talking numerology here, but I'm certainly not against that-sort-of-thing. Whatever is helpful, whatever works, so long as no one is hurt. A name change may discomfit one's parents, an insult to them by rejecting what they believe they have carefully chosen.
For instance: When I hear someone regretting his or her name, I immediately ask, "Why not change it? Choose a name you like, one that's a better fit."
A woman of forty-something called Miggie wanted - and badly - to be called Margaret. I urged her to announce that, the name change turning her life - if not around - even thirty degrees would be an improvement. I urged her to demand she be addressed with her birth name. One of her two brothers can't get the hang of it. He gripes: "I've called you Miggie all my life!" as if that's that. Margaret's own mother never missed a beat and switced to Margaret immediately.
Do as you will, change your name if you want. It doesn't have to be made legal - a jolly mess when you stop to think about everything that needs changing. If you are reading this and long to have Dilbert or Hortense changed to Oswald or Persephone, then stand up for yourself. First ask, then plead, then insist and, at last, refuse to answer to any but your chosen new name.
If you tell me what your chosen name is, you can depend on being addressed thus by me, if no one else.