What’s really in a name after all?


It was one of those funny things. My eldest was with me in a garage to have our car checked when she said, “Dad. See!”

I turned around to see a set of summer tires, ready for a stranger’s car. “Guenter”, the name of the unknown owner, was written in large letters on the four stacked tires like a question mark.

It’s funny, because we had just buried Papa Froese, my father, Guenter, in a cemetery in Kitchener. It’s not like Guenter (“Guenther” when anglicized) is the name of all the kids in the playground. It was like a fun public announcement. “Hey look. Here are some ‘Guenter’ tires. Now go ahead. Drive. It’s spring.”

In good weather, driving time can be quiet time, when, if you’re like me, you could escape the routine and, en route somewhere, anywhere, listen to what may or may not be happening in your life. You could leave early to catch a sunrise, or even pray, although my dad always said that our true prayers are somehow said between our prayers.

That’s it. A name can conjure up all kinds of images. Names are like faces. We are married to them. For better or for worse, that’s what we see in the mirror every morning. “Oh, it’s you again.” Hello. Anne. Mohammed. Married. Jose. Yes, we’re still together, stuck with our names like we’re stuck with our tired eyes, crooked noses, and receding hair.

Our names are the starting point for how the world sees us. My mum – her name was Hannelore – and my dad didn’t agree on everything, but before they went their separate ways they agreed that if their unborn child was a boy, his name would be Thomas.

So I’m named after the most famous doubter in history. But the unsurprising truth is that a healthy dose of skepticism, especially in this line of work, isn’t a bad thing. “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” is the old newspaper adage. So much the better if, while doing such comforting and distressing, you are the namesake of someone insightful.

None of this occurred to me when I was a boy bouncing in the back of my father’s old Pontiac Parisienne, a purple boat from a car. It was eventually replaced by a red Cutlass Supreme, a convertible that made those windy days the best time of the year.

At that time, I would not have wanted to think of a name, be it John, David or Mary, among the most common first names in Canada. Or Smith or Brown or Tremblay, among the most popular surnames in Canada.

As a boy, I also wouldn’t bother to learn that Guenter apparently means “fighter-warrior” (gosh, did you know my dad?), or that Guenter is the 49,842nd most common name in the world. , or that Guenter as a surname is 325,054th for worldwide popularity. This, according to forebears.io, the world’s largest name database.

The fact is that these “Guenter” tires? What are the chances?

Don’t make more names than we should. Watch the otherwise nameless Tank Man. It was the brave Chinese who stood in front of – and stopped – that line of tanks in Tiananmen Square. A nameless man who held on, most remembered this weekend because of China’s violent crackdown on the Tiananmen protest on that day, June 4, 1989.

Whatever name under the sun you may have, it’s not the worst thing to imagine that in the afterlife, like your other defining characteristics, your name might be reborn and given back to you in some unexpected way. , in a way that you would never brew. Who knows?

One thing I do know is that the images of cherubs, harps, and fluffy clouds usually imagined for the afterlife are horribly uninspiring. Better to go with hammers and saws to convey the building of the kingdom of heaven, this long tomorrow, in a more vivid and tangible, if not mysterious way.

And those unnamed streets? I think very cool wheels will still be needed for them.


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