Wording With Purpose

Do You Name Your Stuff?

Raising daughters presented an opportunity for me to probe the intricate workings of the female mind. I had discovered within a few months marriage to Shawn that her mind consists of unfathomable layers. Should a man brazenly think he has mapped part of that territory he will find in retrospection that he was mistaken. The landscape changed, morphed, and recombined in another of the infinite possibilities while he was patting himself on the back.

Two newborn and unprogrammed female minds must hold clues on how girls think. I had only to pay attention so I observed my daughters at play. Little boys seem content to push a toy truck back in forth in the sand making roads to nowhere while emitting powerful engine sounds. That is a good day’s play, and it is enough. Little girls erect cities in that sandbox, generate impressive speeches, elect governments, organize childcare for imaginary offspring, and push for world peace. Their kaleidoscopic mental threads interweave masterful creations with rules and norms and expectations. And the imagination never ends.

My discoveries included the realization that Amanda and Michelle had an inner drive to name everything. Amanda and Michelle demanded proper names for objects and exhibited deep creativity in deriving and assigning those names. We have a pair of Dogwood trees named for friends at church, and after twenty-five years those trees are still referred to as Chuck and Christine.

We purchased a used 2.5 ton Buick land yacht station wagon complete with nine seat belts, three full bench seats, and gaskets that leaked without shame. I had my own under-my-breath names for that demon-possessed beast, but the girls called her Bertha. Bertha took us on many pleasant family outings, and her drop-down tailgate became the ideal picnic table for roadside dining.

Michelle with Bertha in the background. 1992

Bertha took it on the chin one chilly morning to protect Shawn and the infant Michelle. An impatient lady in a pipsqueak Honda ran a stop sign. My ladies, encased in heavy Detroit steel, hardly felt the crash. The accident occurred in front of a fire station and more than one first responder (love those guys and gals!) rushed to help. No injuries in either car, but the Honda’s plastic remains littered the highway. The firefighters cleared the debris, and Shawn drove Bertha home.

After a few additional years of service we donated Bertha to a local rescue mission. Her replacement was a sporty car with “whee-doggies” acceleration and road-hugging steering. A rocket on wheels, Rocky quickly became part of our family and passed from Shawn to Amanda to Michelle and eventually to our mechanic and his brother (who may still be driving him). There were high numbers on Rocky’s speedometer, numbers that we never reached (as far as I know we never reached them, right ladies?), but it was nice to see them and know that someone on a track somewhere had hit them. Rocky put a smile on my face when I ran through his gears on a curvy road.

Rocky on a trip in the mountains. 1994

Even my garden tools were named by the Dynamic Duo of Tagging. The blue chipper/shredder became Cookie Monster. The tiny red Mantis tiller was naturally Elmo. Michelle now drives a Mini Cooper named Max, and Amanda sports a Rav4 which I think is named “Not A Van” or at least that is what she has replied to me several times.

John and Shawn dig the vehicles out in Raleigh. 2000. Yes, it snows here!

Those names my girls created and assigned are etched in my brain. I can give thanks for the privilege of being part of their lives as simple words like Bertha or Rocky start the memories flowing and remind me of God’s blessings on our days.

I’m reading 2 Chronicles as I work my way through the Bible. Solomon invested much in building and adorning the temple. His vision for the edifice was that it be a place to honor God, a place where worship would flow from anyone who visited.

The house which I am about to build will be great, for greater is our God than all the gods. But who is able to build a house for Him, for the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain Him? So who am I, that I should build a house for Him, except to burn incense before Him? 2 Chronicles 2:5-6 NASB

I paused as I read about the pillars at the front of the temple. Solomon gave them names.

He erected the pillars in front of the temple, one on the right and the other on the left, and named the one on the right Jachin and the one on the left Boaz. 2 Chronicles 3:17 NASB

From the marginal notes in my study Bible I learned that Jachin means he shall establish and Boaz means in it is strength. For Solomon the names pointed to the promises God had made to David. Those named columns would remind worshippers of God’s grace in establishing the nation with wise leaders like David and now Solomon. And for Solomon personally came the reminder that he must depend on God for success as king.

Perhaps choosing meaningful names for inanimate objects is a great practice indeed.


  1. Rob Robertson
    October 8, 2017    

    While I wasn’t blessed with daughters this piece takes me back to childhood growing up with my sister who named most things and taught me the craft of name association. The pillars Solomon named in his temple had a purpose beyond holding up the structure. Great writing my friend. Thank you.

    • October 8, 2017    

      Thanks for the feedback, Rob. I marvel at all the things my daughters have taught and continue to teach me. Hey, I even traded my flip-phone for a smartphone, something they never dreamed would happen. Stay well!

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