My mom, Myrle, and my sister, Cindy, me, brother Paul, and sister, Patty. I'm wearing gloves, must have been Easter Sunday .
Made by names: Cynthia Lynn, Rebecca Kay, Paul Stanley, and Patricia Ann, the Johnson kids with our mom, Myrle Ilene, on our farm in rural South Dakota.

I can still plainly hear my voice on that first day of kindergarten at District #32 just down the gravel road from our farm in rural South Dakota. My teacher, Mrs. Dangel, was reading the roll call, “Rebecca?” to see if I was present. (There were only five of us seated around a tiny table with tiny chairs next to her desk.) I quickly replied with great conviction, “My name is BECKY, not Rebecca.”

Yes, as a five year old I wasn’t thrilled with the name Rebecca. It sounded kind of old and formal. No doubt my mother wanted something that sounded good with my two big sisters’ names. Patricia, Cynthia, Rebecca, do you note “a” pattern? Or when the shortened names were used . . .Patty, Cindy, Becky. Very sweet and very 1959.

I recall in my childhood years discovering a pamphlet of “Baby Names” printed by the Gerber company. I felt like mystery writer Nancy Drew as I unearthed this document from a box in my bedroom closet. There, next to six or eight baby girl names, were little ink marks that my mother had made. Rebecca was marked, but so was Melissa. Melissa. Was there ever a more beautiful name than Melissa, my seven-year-old self thought? I spent years imagining what life would have been like had I been named Melissa. However, when it was time to be called to supper or asked to play on the swings by Patty, Cindy, or my brother, Paul, I responded to the sound of “Becky” in a jiffy. Fast forwarding, apart from a small unsuccessful stint of trying to be Rebecca in my early nursing career, I have come to love hearing my name “Becky.”

So my interest in names and the power of hearing them (and a quick web search) led me to this small but intriguing study, “Brain Activation When Hearing One’s Own and Others’ Names”. Read about it here. Basically, scientists put headphones on four guys, the guys were put in an MRI, and the guys’ names were spoken. Specifically, (and this is why I love the description of detailed methodology in scientific articles) the names read were Dan, Jay, Mike, and Saul. They were instructed to have their eyes closed and they were instructed not to move. I was impressed to read that none of them moved more than 1.5 mm during the MRI. Who can do that? These guys were good. So what happened when they heard their names spoken? The scientists reported:

“There is unique brain activation specific to one’s own name in relation to the names of others.”

 Dan, Jay, Mike, and Saul’s brains all responded in the same way but only when their own name was called. The part of their brain that regulates emotional responses to specific events lit up on the MRI as did the area for auditory processing and understanding the facial expressions of others. Wow! What do you think of that, _____________(insert name here)? And here’s my favorite finding of the study:

A questionnaire given following the scanning revealed that the subjects found the study interesting and that the sounds of their names elicited responses of ‘that’s me.’

“That’s me.”

 Our creator God is an amazing electrician. God has wired us in such a way that we hear the calling of our name and respond back with the declaration of “that’s me.”

My kids will tell you that one of the things they heard me say often in my “mom voice” when they were leaving for a school trip or traveling away for an event with friends was, “Remember who you are and whose you are.” It gets back to that child of God role I wrote about in my first post. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about being a child of God in the future, but for now, just being able to recognize each day “that’s me” is a sufficient and powerful start.

How will you respond to today when you hear your name called?

Who needs to hear their name called today? You? Your spouse? Your neighbor?

Whose world can you light up by calling their name?

“I have called you by name, you are mine.”Isaiah 43:1







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15 thoughts on “Made by a Name

  1. This makes me smile. Hearing one’s name is music to the ears, I think. Do you mind that I call you “Bec”?


    1. Dear Jan, I actually thought about including a paragraph in the small but precious circle of family and friends that call me, Bec. You would be right there…along with your dad, I can still hear him saying it. ?

  2. Becky that was beautifully written. You must have read what has been in my own mind about my name. I cannot wait for your next post. By the way Nancy Drew mysteries were the bomb!!!

  3. I love this – I was Kathy growing up and thought Kathryn too formal. Professionally I have preferred Kathryn because it sounds more grown up and less sing-spongy. My family called me Kath and still do (we all got one syllable nicknames). I always thought it would be cool to be named Jan or Carla☺️

  4. Haha – misspelled my last name! I also have a list of other misspellings that are quite fun! And btw, my birth name was Johnson.

  5. I have read and really enjoyed all three of your Blog posts. I was reminded that my oldest brother’s wife was a first grade teacher and noted children did not know their true name which she felt compelled to use in the classroom. They named their second son “JOEY” to avoid the classroom confusion. Joey, however, grew and grew to about 6′ 4″ and I are certain he was in excess of 300 pounds. Prior to his passing at about age 50, even his parents called him Joe as “Joey” apparently did not seem to fit some a big man. My name is somewhat unique and I am pleased that I never have had a nickname although sometimes it is misspelled or periodically somebody will cap the “w” which is not correct.
    Keep up the writing of your Blog.

  6. Thanks, Becky. I love your blog. There’s a sense of ease in your writing that makes it enjoyable, making the messages memorable. When I was young I wanted to be named Peggy, like my best friend. My mom convinced me that Camille is a lovely name and would be easier to spell than Margaret.

    1. Such kind words, Camille! Thank you! I love your comment about the name Peggy. My best friend growing up was also a Peggy. Camille is truly a beautiful name and fits your artistry! I need a Camille music fix soon!

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