Monday, March 2, 2009

Celebrate Your Name Week!

I found this on the The Educated Genealogist through my Google Reader this morning and thought it would be fun to do. When I was a little girl I used to love names. My mother saved all the baby name books she had and there was nothing I loved pouring over more. I use to make list after list of my favorite names. Then when I was eleven and started becoming interested in genealogy, I had fun writing down all my favorite ancestral names. My problem with names is that I can never pick just one that I like. Looking back on all the lists I made, I singled out my favorites (which were basically the top fifty out of a hundred or more) and decided those would be the names of my future children. Some of those name combos are a bit much, there is even an instance on one list where I gave my poor future daughter thirteen names! While I don't pour over names as much as I used to, I've been in love with Behind the Name for a long time and I still find myself "collecting" names, meaning I write a name I hear that is new, nice or unusual down on a scrap of paper and save it (what exactly for, I couldn't say).

As for my own name, I have never liked it. I wasn't named after anyone, it was just a name my mother heard and liked. I was originally going to be named Maleia because of my mother's love of Hawai'i, but then my cousin had her daughter a few years before me and named her Maleia, so that was out. One interesting thing about my name, Leah, is that there are two correct pronunciations of it. In Hebrew, my name is pronounced like Princess Leia (LAY-ah). For gentiles, it is pronounced with a hard E, LEE-ah. Since my family isn't Jewish, I've always gone by LEE-ah, but if you call me LAY-ah, I won't correct you because technically that's correct too. Leah is a biblical name from the Old Testament (which is why it is also very popular among Jewish people). Leah is kind of a loser in the Bible. She isn't pretty, she can't see very well, her name means "cow" or weary," her snotty sister Rachel is the pretty one and the one Jacob loves, and in fact, Leah's father has trick Jacob into marrying her. The only thing going for her is that God feels sorry about her pathetic life and gives her a bunch of kids. Don't ask me any more of the story because I've honestly never read the Bible beyond Genesis and parts for anthropology assignments. I just know that out of all the HUNDREDS of people in the Bible, Leah has got to be the lamest one to be named after, except maybe Lot's wife, she didn't have it so good either... So yeah, I'm not a big fan of my name. I've heard that Leah is also an Assyrian name for "ruler" or "mistress," so whenever someone asks me where my name is from I give that as the meaning.

My middle name, Elizabeth, is named for a relative. Elizabeth Mae (Bancroft) Gardner was my grandfather's first cousin (her mother was the sister of my great-grandfather). My mother was always close with Elizabeth and considered her a favorite relative. When my mother was trying to figure out what she wanted to do for a career, it was Elizabeth (who was a nurse) who suggested my mother go into nursing, and she has always been grateful to Elizabeth for that and has never regretted her career choice. I got to know Elizabeth a little towards the end of her life and she was pretty amazing. I remember visiting her at her rest home once, she had to have been in her eighties and she was sitting in a position that only yoga instructors can do. She could also remember everything and had a great sense of humor. Elizabeth died in Lodi, CA at the age of 90 in 2001. It is also worth noting that I wasn't the only one named after her, a niece of Elizabeth's was also named for her.

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