Sunday, March 7, 2010

What's in a name?

Choosing a name was the easiest part of having Hannah. It took us some time to conceive and we ended up going down the IVF route. But very early on we'd decided that if we had a girl, we'd name her Hannah Gitl.

We wanted a biblical name that would work equally well in the wider secular Australian society. We both liked the name Hannah and settled on it after checking there was no nasty story associated with the name. (I always wonder about parents who name their daughter Leah, although not as much as about those who name their daughter Tamar - just Google 'Tamar in the Hebrew bible' to understand why; there are two Tamar's, neither of whom has a story fit for a G-rated blog.)

Hannah was a prophet and mother of Samuel; her name also apparently means beauty and passion. If she'd been a boy we would have named her Benjamin , a name we selected long before some other friends welcomed their son Benjamin into their lives. After Hannah's birth these friends told us that if they had had a girl, they would have named her Hannah! Which just goes to show that great minds think alike.

The Gitl part of her name comes from her late maternal grandmother. Gitl, meaning good, was a popular girl's name amongst Yiddish-speaking European Jews. The diminutive of Gitl is Gitl-lah (meaning 'little Gitl') - much like in Australia where a child may be called Debbie instead of Deborah or Cathy instead of Catherine.

When my grandparents migrated to Australia in the 1950s, my mum's name was recorded on all the official paperwork as Gitla. It wasn't until 40 years later that she finally reclaimed her real name, telling colleagues that the 'a' was silent. Part of honouring her memory in our daughter is ensuring that her name was properly recorded as it should have been rather than as Gitla - the legal name she was saddled with due to a misunderstanding by an immigration officer all those years ago.

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