Some people have a lot of names. I’m not talking about nicknames or occupational “hats” that they wear; I’m talking about real names. I’m not talking about names from Latin like “Dena extracta Greco unto exubris swino et tu Franco friatas which in truth has absolutely no real meaning at all except what I made up as; “Dennis…from the Greek name Dionysus is a fat pig who eats too many French Fries!” I can see Google Translate melting down on that traffic! Thanks Zulu! I met a woman once who seemed to have hyphenated her name so many times that the hyphens took up more spaces in her mailing address than the letters of the alphabet!
Papa Zulu was raised as a “first generation, Irish-Catholic American”. This is also NOT the list of names we were discussing. He once told me that children of “his kind” were born and given two names. Their first name (always a Catholic Saint name; never Madison, Hurricane, or Dallas), and their last name. That was it. He went on to explain that when the appropriate time came (usually the 6th grade), a child would “make” their Confirmation. This was a time when a young person would, under their own will, confirm their faith in the Catholic Church. This was versus Baptism; when that path was chosen for them. Baptism was also done to exonerate the newborn from “original sin” SIDE NOTE- Papa Zulu was an extremely kind and devoted man who cherished his family and found great strength in his faith. He loved his church and took great pains not to mock it…….HOWEVER….if the subject came up about the original sins of a newborn infant, Papa got very HOT under the collar, and not in a kind and gentle priestly way! “Newborns are NOT sinners” he would say. You tell’em Papa! But I digress………….
It was also explained to me that children were not given middle names, they chose their middle name at confirmation. These days, children seem to be given a first, middle and last name at birth. If they decide to be Confirmed, they pick the 4th name; a confirmation name (which never seems to get used, called or discussed).
Years ago, it was time for my “alter-ego” Dennis to make his confirmation in the 6th grade. He was not given a middle name at birth as the name Dennis Downes seemed so magnificent to his parents. The moment had come that Monday in Catechism Class where it was time to choose a Confirmation name. Dennis struggled. Eventually, the teacher came to his desk and explained the time was just about up and he would have to choose a name. Apprehensively scanning the list one more time, he came across a beautiful name; Dennis. His eyes widened, his heart pounded, and euphoria overtook him. Dennis, that’s the name he wanted! Instantly, the reply came from the teacher; “NO! You can NOT take the name Dennis” she demanded!
“Dennis Dennis; damn glad to meet ya! ( I wish I could swear like that in the 6th grade!).
These days Dennis Dennis only goes by the name Dennis and doesn’t consider himself a Catholic, but if there is a God, and he’s watching, I hope he’s smiling at the little kid who didn’t get bullied into someone else’s idea of “the right thing to do.”