My name is rather common and plain. It is not one you would mispronounce unless you are seeking do so with purpose. In my travels, work life, and friendship circles, I have met and married and associated and navigated relationships with many folk. Some with hard to pronounce names and others with exceedingly easy for my tongue to recall.
The thing that has irked me the most are people I meet from far away shores who live near me here in America who have absolutely lovely names. Names that their parents almost certainly thought long and hard about. Perhaps discussed long into the night. Prayed over. Had ceremonies to imbue the name. But as soon as an American mispronounced the name, they would alter its pronunciation simply to ease tensions, calm prejudices, or worse ‘Americanize’ the name. Whatever that means. I met a young man who enjoys Chinese heritage. He was introduced to me as Lee. Upon further discussion I learned it’s spelled Le. So I asked him, “Is your name Lee or Le?” He replied Le, but everyone pronounces it Lee. I asked why that was so when that was not his given name? He supposed that “… It was easier for Americans to call him that.” I was saddened that a man would lose his identity and nationality. Le is Chinese. Lee is typically Japanese. I had never yet called him Lee and do not intend to start.
Then my mind wandered, as it often does, to the bible. I began to wonder why is the name of the persons in the sixty six books so important? Their lineage. Their surnames. Their heralding comes from their name. Someone is always named something son of someone or somebody daughter of something. More than that, the name is rarely Americanized. Beersheba. Malachi. Uzziah. Gershom. Abram. All are uniquely biblical but are not so complex that they defy repetition. But others are complex and clearly without much amusement from its original pronunciation. Aminadab. Naasson. Obed. (Matthew 1:4,5) Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai (Numbers 1:6)
But then the is Mary and Joseph. Mary? Joseph? I’m pretty sure these names are not common in the days leading up to the birth of Jesus. So what we’re their names? I looked.
Mary was Maria Mariam pronunced mar-ee’-ah mar-ee-am’ or mirjam.
Joseph was Iōsēph pronounced ee-oh-safe’
Honestly I like their original names better. They speak more to their namesake and heritage and direction in life. The appropriation of their names for the palatability of the masses is of little interest to me. I hope that in time I will slowly replace their common speak names with the names spoken by Γαβριήλ, or as we pronounce it, Gabriel an angel of the LORD.
It is my prayer that we seek to know one another better. To seek relationship with one another as human to human. Heart to heart. And it starts with a name. Our real name.