Notes from Niflheim: What’s in a Name?

I am half inclined to think that the old gentleman [parson] was himself somewhat tinctured with superstition, as men are very apt to be who live a recluse and studious life in a sequestered part of the country, and pore over black-letter tracts, so often filled with the marvelous and supernatural.
—Old Christmas, Washington Irving

I may have mentioned how country living has made me a bit superstitious. Well, so has having kids. I’m beginning to wonder just how much naming influences destiny.

With our first child, I had this ambition that any son of mine would be named for both a philosopher and a conqueror. At the time, my wife was particularly keen on Kierkegaard, the Gloomy Dane, so he supplied the first name. And that’s exactly what we ended up with. Our boy is very much a moody philosopher with a perhaps too vivid interest in historical conquests. He wonders about the theological implications of Miyazaki films, and consistently persuades his playmates to act out the Russo-Japanese War with him.

Our second child was given the Greek name for “resurrection” and the Latin for “born again.” This was the daughter who abruptly rolled onto her stomach and pushed herself up in the warming pan immediately following birth. We should’ve known then and there that we were in for a daredevil. Truly she has no fear of death, not even healthy self-preservational fear. This is the child who enjoyed climbing up flights of stairs in order to leap giggling off the side rail, so that her father would have to intercept her in midair like a football.

When my wife became pregnant with our third child, we were both independently inspired to name her after a specific saint from Kildare. Lo and behold, that’s what we got: a little Zen saint, easy from day one. Easy labor, easy delivery, easy ride home. As yet she does not display her brother’s obsessive inquisitiveness, nor her sister’s devilish charm, but she is the sweetest and happiest of us all. I love all my children, but believe you me, if the first two had been as effortless as the third we’d have eight of them by now.

So be careful what you name your offspring. Aim for generous saints if you want a quiet household. Go for warrior-kings if you want a little more adventure. Then again, what do I know? My wife’s name means ewe, after all, implying passive or submissive—and she’s anything but.

RDG Stout was born and raised amongst the Pennsylvania Deutsch but has spent the last decade as a country preacher in the windswept wilds of Niflheim, a.k.a. rural Minnesota. He lives in a mead hall with his Viking wife, three kids, and a bizarre assortment of stories. His musings may be found at Grimly Optimistic.

Author: RDG Stout

I've studied philosophy and jurisprudence, medicine and even, alas! theology from end to end with labor keen. And here, poor fool! I stand with all my lore, no wiser than before. ~Faust

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