Throughout my life, I have responded to various names – Lynnie is a favorite of my dad and my former next-door neighbor, while my little sister called me onnie because she couldn’t say the L for her first few years.
As we grew older, my siblings alternated between calling me Lance, Leo, Lou, Lynnie Lou by Lollipops and other monikers based on what my parents said my name would have been had I been a boy. Their nicknames, too, came from those early assignations, and have endured in perpetuity.
I know my parents chose my name very carefully. Jews often name after loved ones who have passed, and so the L in my English and Hebrew names is an homage to my great-grandfather, Louis, and my middle name, Meredith, in Hebrew, Masha, was for some Russian relative, a great-grandmother or earlier back.
We choose names for our children, names for our businesses, nicknames for our lovers and our best friends.
This week has been devoted to revealing the new name of my biggest client, and so I’ve been thinking a lot about what is in a name, and how names affect us, or don’t.
When I named my company, Your People, I thought about how, I’d find your people for you as part of my communications and public relation work. I’d help clients tell stories that build relationships that build business, and it is, in fact, what I do.
The name is, to be honest, not wonderful. I mean, it’s ok and it’s lived on and I keep it because it’s too hard to start over with website rankings and URLs and educate people that we are still the same company. In my case, the name doesn’t matter as much as the relationships.
So I wonder, is that really the case? The client we are promoting who is now Samaritas did have a naming problem. As Lutheran Social Services of Michigan, they had derivations of the main name at programs around the state and people who were not Lutheran sometimes thought the organization didn’t serve them because of the name.
It wasn’t the case, and they wanted a name that communicated universality, inclusion and welcome. So now they’re Samaritas.
But after the news of the name change, the work continues as it should and people know the people behind the programs more than they know the organizational name. It’s just that now, there will be greater brand recognition, greater cohesion, further reach.
A name is no small thing.
And as much as we say that names are important, I’m beginning to wonder if it is just how we organize and understand the world around us.
The 16th century Italian friar Giordano Bruno said, “There is one simple Divinity found in all things, one fecund Nature, preserving mother of the universe insofar as she diversely communicates herself, casts her light into diverse subjects, and assumes various names.”
Which brings me back to my own personal truth: that we are all the same. We are all saying the same thing, believing in the same values, living according to the same morals, more or less.
We are united in goodness, at the core. Which is something worth promoting.