Whats in a name?


The Importance of a Name

The naming of a child can be a blessing or a curse that affects the child throughout life. Johnny Cash’s song about “A boy named Sue” comes to mind. But, there is a kernel of truth in that song. Names are often bestowed in a moment of whimsy. They may prove inappropriate in retrospect, but they are usually taken from the dominant language of the country. When I wanted to name my middle son born in Montevideo, Uruguay, as David Augustine, his name morphed into David Agustin on the official papers. My youngest was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and “Adam Christian” was processed through the “official name list” into Adan Cristian.

Generally, governing civilizations are built upon the framework and verbal concepts of a dominant language. Those excluded from the governing classes may cling to the languages of lands from whence they came, or to their native language if they’ve been conquered. But it usually pays to quickly learn the language of government. If the conquerors rule for a long time, their language may ultimately prevail, absorbing what is useful from the conquered by “loan words,” or more powerfully by a gradual merger of syntax and vocabulary. The Latin-speaking Roman Empire lasted a thousand years encircling the Mediterranean while ruled from Rome, and its heirs another thousand in the Carolingians and Byzantines, and their successors. The progress over a thousand years of the English language after the Norman Conquest is a good example of a merger between two Indo-European variants, producing a very efficient, now global tongue.

5,300 years ago, two major language groups were gaining traction in Eurasia: Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Semitic. The two groups dominate the news in the West to this day. The people of these two language groups dominate the action in the Raising-up-Pharaoh novels. The story also includes early Harappan characters, whose language remains a mystery to this day, and Proto-African speakers from what is now called Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Sudan, but their roles are minor in this story. In the fictional moment of the story, a duration of about twenty years, an urban Mesopotamia is ruled by a thinning overlay of P-I-E speaking nobility, whose conquest a few centuries earlier is losing its vigor as it faces an overwhelming invader from middle Asia. Co-existing with the Mesopotamians are pastoral tribes of Proto-Semitic speaking Bedouin living in the badlands and desert west of the Euphrates. Having coexisted as neighbors for centuries, the two groups work together and speak a pidgin of the two language groups.

There are many named characters in the six-novel epic: some characters traverse all six books; others may appear in a single novel. The P-I-E speakers carry names derived from P-I-E word roots. The Semitic speakers’ names and their meanings are taken from Arabic name lists. Likewise the names and meanings of the Africans are taken from Ethiopian name lists.

Character names and derivations are presented in the first list.

Place and group names are presented in the second list.