I recently perused Tal Ilan's catalogue of naming frequencies in ancient Judea after reading Bauckham's "Eyewitnesses" book. The fact that the people in that place and at that time seemed to have held to a traditional naming convention with a relatively limited pool of names to choose from makes an interesting contrast with a list of names in use by the English Puritans of the late sixteenth/early seventeenth centuries. They were so obsessed with scripture that they chose words and phrases from Holy Writ as names for their children. Lower's English Surnames reports that a jury list from Sussex County included these specimens:
I can't help but imagine some somber plainly-clad parishioner opening the good book and randomly pointing to a verse to use as a name of his/her newborn child.
My mom recently told me that there's a Dominican immigrant couple in her neighborhood that, although they don't speak English, decided to name their child "Christophertwelveseventeen" just because they liked the sound of it. The couple's name-choice seems a strange decision until one stands away a step or two and realizes that it is essentially a cargo cult-like expression of their hope for their child. Its "sounds" like success in the American dream to this couple and so they go with it. I've often wondered how much the names we give our children can affect their lives. I have a friend whose name is Dowell (do-well) and he's done pretty well, I must say, so maybe there is something to it.