Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A new name for Birdie Boy

See Jonalyn's post on this theme.


The day’s vital details

Born this countdown day… 3210 or 3-2-10 or March 2, 2010 @ 2:41pm.  A warm, sunny day in Steamboat, Birdie Boy delivered naturally (without any medication) under seven hours.  Five days past due, he rang in his birthday celebration at a whopping nine pounds twelve ounces.  Jonalyn is well and recovering peacefully.

The first song he heard was Rich Mullins, "The Color Green."

Now to name him.

From Wales to the New World

My great-great-grandfather stepped off a boat from Wales on his way to the new world.  At the immigration station on the American shore, the processing agent asked his name.

“David Davies,” he said with a thick accent.  In England and Wales, “Davies” is pronounced “Davis.”

“Right,” said the American agent.  And wrote “Davis” on the paperwork. 

My maternal surname on that day shifted to “Davis.”

The historic Welsh tradition was to name a child your last name first, like my great-great grandfather, David Davies.  “David” is another form of “Davies” and “Davis.”  If you meet a Robert Roberts, you’ve met someone influenced by Welsh tradition.  Or a William Williams.  My grandfather was “David D. Davis.”  His middle name was “Dale.”  My grandmother called him “Dave.”

I bear the middle name of my grandfather, D. D. Davis.  D. D. Davis helped people, their bodies and their souls.  With only a high school degree and naval service in the construction battalion in WW2, his active imagination and culture taste appreciated good food, good art, and good company.  He took pains to help the unnoticed: workers who needed work, homeless who needed shelter.  He passed our bibles, quietly, on university campuses.  He was one of the first to employ African-Americans on his building projects in Ohio.  He cared about high culture, restored museums, toured the major galleries of the world, tasted the finest restaurants on the planet.  He traveled the world, looking for opportunities to help local economies before micro-loans were popular.  He loved Jerusalem and sang songs about that city.  He supported a little known Indian man whose voice is now all over the world.  That voice belonged to Ravi Zacharias and Ravi’s first book was dedicated to my grandfather.  My most recent book is too:  His “ordinary life with Jesus looks extraordinary in the world.”

Girls vs. boys names

Naming children is difficult business.  Some people, stumped by the overload of options, wait till the day of birth.  The child could be named after the doctor or nurse or, as one story I heard, the brand of the clock on the wall in the delivery room.

No wonder the Welsh took the easier way of moving the last name and to the front.

Today, I’ve noticed that girls get the advantage of the exotic, unusual names.  Girl names are cute and creative, even invented.  Boy names not so much.  To name a boy “Apple” as Gwyneth Paltrow named her daughter would be a little odd in our culture (though I like the idea).  Nicole Richie named her new son, “Sparrow,” pushing the edge of popular trends.  I’m unsure if it works.  If you look around the web, you’ll discover that girl names have a lower statistic of repetition, unlike boy names.

We had “invented” a girl name not long after we discovered the pregnancy.  Piece of cake.  But a boy name…few evoked both good poetry and meaning at the same time.  Names work like wine to a meal.  The challenge was pairing a first name with such an earthy sounding last as “Fincher.”

A “fincher” is one who buys, sells, and distributes finch birds.  My parents, I’m sure, rolled the sound over and over again to make three family names piece together in “Charles Dale Fincher.”  With names like that there is no mistaking my heritage from the British Isles.

Making names fit

We wanted our son’s name to at least sound right, even if it had no meaning.  Tirian sounded good by itself, but not with Fincher.  The royal name of the last king of Narnia felt blunt against the outdoorsy Fincher.  Same with Crispan.  Maxen, Brac, Pascal, Elis all sounded good on their own.  But the surname dulled it.  And “Francis,” the name of the first Quaker who settled in the new world on my paternal side, just won’t do.

What to do… what to do…

My Favorite Play

In college a mentor discovered my knack for acting.  My favorite play in college was the second play I performed.  It wasn’t on the large “main stage” nor was it “high art” like my later Shakespearian dramas.  But I still have the straw hat my mentor stole from the prop closet (partly because I had mangled it so much through use), a gift from my part in The Adventure of Tom Sawyer.

I loved playing Tom.  If he didn’t have adventure, he invented it.  He was a better con than I could ever be.  Yet his side-kick intrigued me.  Huckleberry didn’t invent adventure; he lived it often against his will.   Considering his unasked-for background, he dun had to make his own way on the Mississip.

I can relate to Huck more than Tom.  Huck Finn had to do what he had to do, even when the grown-ups threatened him with hell, them being so particular and decent in all their ways.
And Huck, in Twain’s sequel to Tom, finds an unexpected companion on the big river.  Jim was running from the law that enslaved him; Huck from the law that forced him to live with his abusive father.  Both had to run into what was “wrong” to find what was right, though what was right warn’t “right” to the people of the time.  Two friends was living what was good, the best they could, even when they didn’t know it was good, even when all the world was a-huntin’ ‘em down.

A new name

I like what Huck Finn means, his courage, his friendship.

I also like the Welsh heritage of double-naming.  Maybe the poetry of Wales led my grandparents to name my mother, Lois Davis.  I’m unsure.  But we’re following suit.

Finn.  That works.

I sat on the name “Lewis” for a long time for a middle name.  It has a ring to it, meaning “lionlike,” resembling the Great Lion, and reflected my hero Clive Staples.  Yet my boy needs to find his own way, not be named after someone that he may not come to appreciate.  For a long time I wanted to name my son after my grandfather, “Davis.”  Would it work for Finn?  What if we took the older use of that name?  “Davies” is the name borne on that ship to the New World.  And we’re reviving it for the future: Davies (like “Davis”).

A name from a man of virtue and faithfulness to the God of Israel—the legacy of Finn’s great-grandfather, D. D. Davis, whose quiet influence is felt throughout the world today.

Our boy can choose to be called all sorts of things:  Finn, Dave, Davie, Davies, and even “Finch” if he likes.  For now, we’ll call him “Finn.”

Finn Davies Fincher.

You are named, son.  Wear it well.
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