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Troublesome Names: what to do about them?

Troublesome Names: what to do about them?

Earlier in my “name story” career, I displayed the LEAH name print. It’s a popular female name, so my customers were going to search for it; I had to list it. Here’s the problem. The foremost linguistic scholars of the Hebrew language are in universal agreement: Leah means “weak-eyed” or “languid.” Needless to say, I never sold a “Leah” print.

Then one day I received an email from a visitor. It read: Hey. You get so many different meanings for the name Leah and you had to go with that one? What a pity. Love your prints though.

It really struck a chord for me. And the kind of chord that’s completely out of tune. Sure, there was my initial knee-jerk reaction: Hey, don’t kill the messenger. I mean, c’mon, I didn’t write the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament. I’m not the one who named the original name bearer from the Book of Genesis. I’m just reporting the facts, jack. But then, as they say, cooler heads prevailed. I began to think of this nice woman who took the time out of her day to give me such valuable feedback, even to add Love your prints though at the end of her honest message. This was no “hater.” This was just Leah’s mom who, like all mothers, wanted her child’s name properly valued. And I was failing her. Fortunately, I love a good challenge.

So…what to do about troublesome names like Leah? Names with origins and meanings that, on the face of it, are not so pleasant or favorable? Leah is a good example, most especially because it was Leah’s mom who got me to change my thinking, but also because there’s a beautiful soul in my own family named Leah.

If you are at all familiar with the Bible, then you know that Leah was Jacob’s first wife. She was the sister of Rachel. And Rachel was the one who Jacob really wanted. But Laban, the girls’ father, tricked Jacob into marrying Leah first (probably because she was older). Leah well understood her plight, which must have been heartbreaking for her, as she loved her husband dearly. So, like a good little soldier, she kept bearing Jacob many sons, the most valuable thing a woman could do in Biblical times. She is the mother of six of the 12 Tribes of Israel and therefore a shining example of a fruitful marriage and an honored matriarch in Judeo-Christian tradition. I decided to focus on the positive and then take some creative liberties to translate the name’s meaning to “Tender-Hearted.” Read Leah’s name print here.

This is where my art meets the science of names. Without compromising the veracity of my research, I use some creative translations. It is all consistent with the essence and spirit of the name, and my positions are completely defensible. I am just turning something potentially troublesome into something beautiful. Thank you Leah's mom.

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