What’s in a name? Nothing? Everything? Consider this imagined interchange between William Shakespeare, the bard of Avon, and Yogi Berra, the Hall of Fame baseball player:
William: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other word would smell as sweet” (Romeo and Juliet II, ii, 1–2).
Yogi: “A rose by any other name would not be a rose” (totally invented quote).
Lately I’ve been rethinking the importance of our names. We are born with them, and unless they are altered by marriage, guru, or intelligent design, we die with them. Yet a name, it turns out, is a lot more meaningful than a mere sound vibration used to identify ourselves to the world.
Way back when I was still young and impressionable (some would argue that was last week) the late Johnny Cash had a great crossover hit (no. 1 on country charts, no. 2 on pop) with a song by Shel Silverstein called “A Boy Named Sue.” It’s quite a narrative about how a man’s life is shaped by the unfortunate name given him by his itinerant pa. Part of the song goes like this:
But the meanest thing that he ever did
as before he left, he went and named me “Sue.”
Well, he must o’ thought that is quite a joke
And it got a lot of laughs from a’ lots of folk,
It seems I had to fight my whole life through.
Some gal would giggle and I’d get red
And some guy’d laugh and I’d bust his head,
I tell ya, life ain’t easy for a boy named “Sue.”
Well, life likewise weren’t none to easy for a boy named Jean-Claude growing up in an Irish-Italian neighborhood on the upper west side of a little island the natives call Manhattan. So for a while I was Johnny (like the singer) and pretended I was the quickest-on-the-draw cowboy that ever there was. Then, when I was ten or so, my family moved to another part of town where a man could stretch out a bit and come fully into his own. I still held onto the moniker Johnny – it made me feel more like a member of the American tribe – and no one ever called me “Frenchy” again. A decade later, however, I began reassuming my real name as I discovered its mesmerizing effect on girls.
Imagine my consternation when my wife, Arianne, recently dropped two printouts on my desk, saying, “Which of these two names do you think is the real you?” They came from a fascinating website, put together by Paul Sadowski, which provides multifaceted personality reports based solely on the numerology of one’s name.
Arianne was showing me the palpable difference that occurs if I include my middle name, Gerard. I had always avoided my middle name because of the pall of uncertainty that surrounds it. My original birth certificate, still in the custody of the local administration of the French market town of Villenueve-sur-Lot where I was born, clearly states that my rightful name is Jean-Claude Gerard Koven. My father, shortly after my birth, crossed out one of the letters in my middle name and changed it to Gerald. I didn’t like Gerald, so I pretended not to have a middle name. A hyphenated first name more than made up for it, I figured.
Now I see things quite differently. After reading the two reports, I have decided to embrace my middle name as part of my new identity. With Gerard added, my Expression or Destiny number goes from a power-seeking, material-oriented eight to an aware, meditative seven. My Soul number transforms from a big-business-oriented eight to the love of adventure and travel associated with a five. But what really sealed the deal for me was the shift in my Inner Dream number, which turns into pure magic: “You dream of casting the light of illumination; of being the true idealist. You secretly believe there is more to life than we can know or prove, and you would like to be the provider of the ‘word’ from on high.”
Sorry, Willy, I’m afraid that on this particular issue I now side with Yogi. A Jean-Claude Gerard by any other name would not be me. So from now on you’ll see my middle name elbowing its way between my first and last names like a little puppy looking for nurturing too long denied. Since I began to embrace the energy of my full name I readily admit to noticing and liking the difference.
There’s something to be said about the vibrational power of a name. Perhaps we shouldn’t assume that the one we were given by well-meaning parents is the one we should use for the rest of our days. If you feel you’re not in total sync with what you’re meant to be doing with your life, it’s worth visiting the Sadowski website (http://www.paulsadowski.com/Numbers.asp) and coming up with the name vibration that’s in perfect harmony with the road you’re meant to be traveling. It’s certainly worth a try.
Jean-Claude Gerard Koven is a writer and speaker based in Vilcabamba, Ecuador. He was a featured weekly columnist for the UPI (United Press International) Religion and Spirituality Forum and is the author of Going Deeper: How to Make Sense of Your Life When Your Life Makes No Sense, recipient of both the Allbooks Reviews Editor’s Choice Award and the USABookNews.com Award for the Best Metaphysical Book of the Year.
©2004 – 2021. Jean-Claude Gerard Koven / All Rights Reserved.