The name “Howie” gives me constant trouble in the Netherlands simply because it is unfamiliar to most. To smooth the way I sometimes tell people it’s Frisian; this places it as being slightly odd, yet acceptably indigenous (Friesland is a province in the north of the country with its own dialect and spelling rules). I always ‘fess up later though.
At 15 I had a girlfriend whose father was also called Howie. At the time it seemed strange to me that a grown man would continue to go by a boy’s name. Thirty-some years later and I’m doing the same thing.
The Brits have a hard time with my name too, especially because it’s connected to “Adan”, which many of them mistake as being “Aidan”, a common given name. I have more than once been addressed as Aidan Howie, because “Howie” is also a surname, and that order makes more sense to the British mind.
Nicknames are funny, aren’t they. As a teenager Renata was acquainted with a “Porky” Norton, but she can’t tell me his real name, nor why he was called Porky (though I can venture a guess). During my teen years in Brazil I remember someone called “Gordy”, and I remember the day he became Gordy. We were playing soccer and Clinton, tall and lanky, jumped up to grab the crossbar of the wooden goal-posts to prevent himself from running through the goal. As he swung toward the net, the upright posts, both rotten at the base, gave way and the entire goal came crashing down. Jokingly we blamed Clinton for being too fat, “gordo” in Portuguese. By the end of the day he had permanently become “Gordy” to everyone, eventually even his parents, I believe.
I was named for two of my father’s high-school buddies from Chicago. Having been born with two older brothers my parents were, by that time, being a bit less purposeful in their name-giving. I met my namesake at my father’s funeral and was sure to get a photo of the two of us together.
Names can be mysteriously fitting sometimes. Renata was named at birth, then given up for adoption, and renamed by her adoptive parents. In her first month she went from an impossibly difficult social situation to the warmth of a stable, loving family. The names her new parents gave her, without thinking of the meaning, form together the phrase: “Reborn of nobility”. How perfect is that?
The book of Revelation talks about a heavenly white stone being given to those who overcome the forces of evil: “to everyone who conquers…I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it”. Naturally, interpretations abound about what this means. Personally I’ve kinda held the image of God, like a Great Indian Chief in the Sky, having a name for each of us that fits exactly who we are. An identity that, once revealed, we’ll recognize as being perfectly accurate – far more than any earthly name we were ever given.
It’s good to know someone knows who we really are.