How do you choose a child’s name?
It’s a big decision isn’t it. After all, they’re going to be stuck with whatever name you give them for the whole of their lives. It’s one thing that you’ll do for your child that you know will have lifelong significance.
As Cathy and I chose Boaz’s name (and Reuben’s, for that matter) we felt this weight of responsibility.
So how do you go about picking a name for a child? Here are some ideas if you’re looking for a name, or just some thoughts if you’re interested in the topic.
It seems to us that there are a few different factors that can play into the choice.
The Accent Test
If you saw our recent thank you video, you may have spotted Scott’s regional accent (it’s hard to miss). Cathy has a generic but mild northern English accent, but Scott’s is a fairly broad Hartlepool accent. His accent means that various vowel sounds are… let’s say unusual. As such, Cathy requires all potential names to go through the “Scott’s accent test”. Many lovely names have hit the cutting room floor after this ruthless test!
When choosing names, some go for what’s popular at the time. In case you’re interested, here are the top 10 most popular boys names in the UK in 2016 so far:
Yes you read that correctly – number 6 is Arlo! We’ve literally never even heard of that name. We must be living in a bubble.
The top 10 UK girls names in 2016 so far, if you were wondering, are:
So popularity is one way to go when picking a name. Others go to the other extreme and try to go for something obscure. It’s a way of ensuring there won’t be 10 other children in the playground with the same name as your little one.
There are other options too. Family names. We’ve gone for this with middle names. Reuben’s middle name is George, after Cathy’s dad’s middle name. Boaz’s is Henry after Scott’s late Grandfather’s middle name.
We think it’s lovely for our children to have a sense of rootedness and connection to their biological family. Obviously their surname naturally does this, but we liked including a Christian family name too. Inheriting the surname is inevitable, but choosing to give your child the name of a family member can be a touching gesture for the family member you’ve chosen and for those who are closest to them.
Some friends of ours have chosen to include a virtue as one of their children’s names for each of their three children. We think this is a lovely idea. To take a virtue that you’d love for your child to display or to appreciate and make it part of their name is great idea. So our friends have ‘Joy’, ‘Hope’ and ‘Mercy’ as part of their children’s names. There’s so many more you could go for…
The Name’s Meaning
Another popular option for choosing your children’s names is to base it on the meaning of the name. This was how Cathy received her name. Cathy’s mum had a difficult pregnancy with Cathy, almost losing her and having to have a lot of bed rest. All babies are precious, but of course this heightened Cathy’s parent’s sense of how precious she was to them. As such they gave her the name “Catherine Amy”, meaning “beloved and precious” (although google says it means “pure”).
Our Name Choices
As we’ve already mentioned, we chose for our boys to have family names as their middle names.
But for their first names we decided to go for names of people from the Bible.
How did we choose which characters to go for?
Well it was partly people with names we liked – but that’s a given.
Beyond that though, we looked for two things. We looked for people with character traits that we hoped our boys would emulate. And we looked for people who pointed to Jesus in a way that made our hearts sing.
Why We Chose The Name Reuben
Reuben was by no means perfect – I’m sure you’ll realise that if you’ve read his story in Genesis.
But there are a couple of things we really liked about him that led to us choosing his name. The first is that he’s the eldest brother of the children of Jacob. We’re certainly not planning to have 12 boys (though watch this space!) but when we had Reuben we did hope to have more children, so we hoped that Reuben would one day be an eldest brother.
But not just any eldest brother.
Do you remember that tense moment near the beginning of the story of Joseph? The moment when the brothers were jealous of Joseph because of his special coat from his father and the dreams he’d been having? Here’s what they were plotting:
“ ‘Here comes that dreamer!’ they said to each other. ‘Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.’”
Well we often forget why this plot was foiled. It was foiled because of Joseph’s protective older brother, Reuben:
“When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. ‘Let’s not take his life,’ he said. ‘Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.’ Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.”
Reuben had just as many reasons to be jealous of and angry towards Joseph as the others. But as a protective older brother he stood up for his younger brother, shielding him. We pray that our Reuben may well be the same – willing to lay aside his claim to getting what he feels he deserves when his siblings wrong him – willing to stand up for his siblings (and others around him) even when they don’t deserve it. Willing to control his anger and desire for revenge, willing to absorb that hurt in himself for the good of others, and willing to forgive those who wrong him.
And of course this beautifully reminds us of Jesus – the one who went to the greatest lengths to rescue us. In our sin we have wronged Jesus far more than Joseph had wronged Reuben. Despite this, Jesus did all that was necessary to protect us from the far more just punishment that was coming our way. Jesus actually took our place. Jesus, the true older brother, died in our place so that he could rescue us and take us back to our Father. How wonderful!
Why We Chose The Name Boaz
Boaz is a really wonderful character. The story of Boaz is found in the book of Ruth – an ancient book set in a world very different from ours.
Boaz is a man of integrity. Ruth is a poor, defenceless widow who is vulnerable and desperate. In a world where women in positions like Ruth’s were very often exploited and mistreated, Boaz did the very opposite. He chose to care for and graciously provide for Ruth. Despite the fact she was not one of his people and was effectively an environmental refugee, despite the fact that she had nothing to offer Boaz, he lavishly provided for her and redeemed her.
We would love Boaz to emulate this. We live in a world where it’s so easy to care about yourself at the expense of others: to look down on those in need; to disparage the plight of the refugee; to make consumer choices that exploit the poorest and most needy. We pray that Boaz won’t just do the easy thing. We pray that, like his namesake, he will stand out from the crowd by fighting for the most needy in this world. We pray that he would seek to protect the vulnerable, to stand against injustice and to honour those who most will dishonour.
And once again, what’s most wonderful about Boaz is not his achievements and character, but the achievements and the character of the one he points us to. We, like Ruth, were in a desperate plight – in need of a redeemer who would lift us out of the poverty of our sin. We needed a protector and provider when we’re not just spiritually vulnerable, but spiritually bankrupt. And that’s exactly what Jesus, the great, great, great… great grandson of Boaz did. Jesus is the true and better Boaz who will never exploit the needy, but instead allowed himself to be exploited for our sake’s.
So there we have it. What names did you choose for your children, and why? We’d love to hear your story in the comments below.
P.S. We recently got Reuben and Boaz dedicated – if you’d like to listen to the talk about how Jesus is the true and better Boaz then click here.