So what’s in a name?


My parents named me Curtis Kline. (No jibes, now. It wears just as well as Milton Scott or William Jehoshaphat or Delton Eli or Richard Milhouse or Clive Staples or John Luke or …)

Presumably, Mom and Dad liked the sound of it, but more than that, they liked the two gents whose names they borrowed, Curtis Humphries and Kline Nall.

Uncle Kline, longtime English professor at Texas Tech who passed away just a few weeks ago, wrote a letter to me (I was still in the crib at the time) explaining that my names meant “courteous little one,” and I hope the description is still at least halfway accurate.

Names are interesting things. Some prestige seems to be attached to having either fewer — or more — than old Billy Bob Smith who has just the usual three.



Friedrich Heinrich Karl La Motte-Fouque.

The prophet Hosea got into all manner of trouble after he married a woman named Gomer. Well, what did he expect?

I once met a good kid named Lambert as I was substitute teaching for my brother’s Amarillo High School Bible class.

Lambert was a toothy little smidgeon of a kid whose parents must’ve bought one of those baby name books, flipped it open in some haste, popped their finger over to an entry in the Ls, and landed upon “Lambert,” pretty much guaranteeing their son would never find his name etched into a cornerstone as CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Which is probably way overrated anyway.

William Frederick Halsey. It was the right name for an admiral a long time before Halsey won flag rank.

John Hancock. Johann Sebastian Bach. Oliver Wendell Holmes. William Henry Harrison.

Lambert Stromp.

Not the same.

Then there was the fictional uncle who Garrison Keillor writes about in some of his “News from Lake Wobegon” stories. The gentle, unassuming little man was Senator K. Torvaldsen, and, no, he was not a senator. He had, in fact, never been elected to any public office at all, much less the United States Senate.

But his parents liked the ring of “Senator,” didn’t care a fig for the names in baby name books, and cared even less about the fact that nobody else ever named a kid “Senator.” They were proud Norwegian Minnesotans perfectly willing to pioneer a new naming trend, and they thought “Senator” would do just fine as a first name, which, for him, it was. And
I suppose they were right.

Whatever our names, if we’ve committed our lives to God, we wear his name.

Wear it well.

Curtis Shelburne is minister at 16th and Ave. D Church of Christ in Muleshoe. He can be contacted at: