Choosing a name for Number Three–
Introducing Petra Hendele Adara Shepard
She is only a week old, but is already very much like her parents: she refuses to sit still for a waken second, she craves the gentle bounce bounce of perpetual motion, and loves nothing more than when daddy sneaks here outside to see the world beyond.
I suppose all parents wish to say such things.
“We made you, we are going to have to raise you, by damn, we are going to name you, too.”
It is my impression that the naming of a child is one of the great equalizers of parenting. All the sacrifices, all the money, and all the time put into raising this child is now preemptively equalized by the fact that WE get to name HER. I suppose it is good for the child’s sake that, in our culture, a name is generally chosen right after birth when the baby is so cute and innocent, rather than in the breakaway days of adolescence.
If it were otherwise, I predict that we would have many more boys named Sue and girls named Jessica.
I do not go in too deep on the meanings behind names. For every source that says a name means one thing, there is another that states it means something else. It is my impression that names are just that: names. I do not have the impression that, in modern society, they hold any sort of inherent meaning other than being a phonic label for a particular person.
Simply put, Bob means Bob.
It is my impression that a parent going on about how the name of their child means “Beautiful incarnation of a flower floating on a lovely river,” is the equivilent to me saying that “bullshit” means “apple pie.” Bullshit may very mean apple pie to someone, somewhere — it may even be a printed definition of such in some oddball book — but it doesn’t mean this to me, or to anyone else I know.
Names mean nothing in America.
Though I do like the meaning of my own:
“Wade, a derivative of the word wadan “to go.”
“Wade, Cross The Water”
It is my impression that names once had meaning: Coopers made barrells, Smiths were blacksmiths, and Shepards herded sheep; kids were named after patron saints or religions icons that were meant to shed their attributes down upon their namesakes. Perhaps this is still like this in many places, but here in America — a country in which the usual lanes of tradition have been mixed up, scrambled about, diluted, and redefined — it is my impression that most kids find themselves with names on the simple grounds that they sound good.
Name only means “name.”
Nothing wrong with this.
Like so, I went into finding a name for Number Three that purely sounded, looked, and felt good, and could be pronounced easily by the bulk of the world’s population. Whereas Chaya wanted to name her along the lines of Judaism.
Petra Hendele Adara
Though I must admit that Petra’s name started out as a jest: Chaya and I became engaged at the ancient city of Petra in Jordan.
“We should name Number Three Petra,” I remember joking in the spinning reverie of our fresh engagement.
But the jest stuck. Everyone we told it too seemed to like it. Though I am still not sure if they really liked it or if they solely thought it was the safest bet out of the stack of other motly names that we had chosen: such as Susquahannah, Mayan, and Shashana.
Petra is Greek for “rock,” but this had nothing to do with anything, other than the fact that Chaya and I were standing on top of the rocks of Petra when we first toasted cold cans of Sprite to our future marriage, child, and a family life spent adrift. It is also a name of Eastern European/ Russian origen. Petra is a pretty common name in the Czech Republic.
Hendele is Yiddish and was the name of Chaya’s grandmother.
Adara is a Muslim/ Hebrew name that has a collection of diverse meanings, my favorite of which is “fire.”
Shepard means one that herds sheep. It is my last name. My dad is a tin knocker and has never herded a sheep in his life.
Petra Hendele Adara Shepard
When choosing this name, Chaya and I had the intention of making sure that people from other countries could read and pronounce it easily. I say with convidence that the simple syllables and a’s and e’s of this name can be easily reproduced by the bulk of the people in the world.
. . . or so we think.
Many languages are made up from clear sylables that often find themselves transcribed with only one, two, or, at most, three letters: one or two consonants are matched with a single vowel. Words that are structured like this are often easy for almost anyone to pronounce.
My name “Wade” sounds simple to the English speaker, but has proven to be nearly impossible for many non-native English speakers to pronounce properly. Most people half-measure it by calling me “Wood” or Weed.” This is probably because this one sylable word has many sound changes:
Names like this do not travel well.
Chaya and I did not want for Petra to go through her entire childhood and adult life having to say her name three dozen times to everyone she meets. “Petra” may come to be pronounced as “Pi-tra,” “Pae-tra,” or “Pet-wa” depending on where we are, but these deviations are relatively close. I do not think that she will have any problems.
Petra Hendele Adara — Number Three — is here, named, and squirming.
Vagabond Baby Series
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