Naming Alexander

Our daughter Emma Hope Casper is six years old and in first grade in the Egyptian private school system. As a foreigner, she is different in many ways from all of her fellow students, yet shares one important commonality.

She is known as Emma Jayson.

A few days ago we invited readers to come along side us as we considered six name choices for our newborn son. Your comments were very helpful, and gave us much food for thought. We are pleased to announce today the birth of Alexander Jayson Charles Casper, born November 6, at 12:30pm, weighing 8.15 pounds.

In that post we mentioned our son’s middle name was already decided. My name is Jayson Charles Casper, and like most Americans, I have only three names. My own father, however, made the somewhat unusual choice to give his own name as my middle.

The Egyptian pattern, and that of many Arabs, is to honor family lineage in the naming of their children. For either a boy or a girl, there is often an element of choice in the first name. But then for both a boy and a girl, the second name is taken from the father, the third from the grandfather, and the fourth and final name from the great-grandfather.

Practically speaking the name is often shortened to just the first two, and this is why my daughter is now known as Emma Jayson in school.

The idea of honoring my own family lineage was attractive to us, as was the idea of honoring this Egyptian sense of family belonging. As my father included his own name in mine, I will do the same with my son. Yet we will lengthen his name to four, extending the generational heritage. The last name, of course, will remain Casper, as we have our own national, cultural – and above all familial – traditions to honor.

Alexander will be free to do as he wishes, but imagining this pattern into the future is winsome.

As for Emma, she too is free. We will have to gauge the value of the challenge in correcting administrative records to describe her as Emma Hope Casper, but as she matures, her identity will increasingly be her own. And, should future circumstances dictate, the Egyptian/Arab pattern of marriage is for the wife to retain her own name.

Of course, we are only partially free. We are shaped by the values and principles bestowed upon us – or neglected – by our families. There was no measure of compunction in the naming of Alexander, yet I am pleased to believe the roots of this choice were sown thirty-eight years ago.

Our son and daughters will surely make future choices we find suspect, and we must gauge the level of responsibility we bear at that time. Our hope, however, is that the values and principles we give them now will inform these choices, even when we disagree.

If so, we trust these disagreements will be few; not from their correspondence with our will, but from the needlessness of concern.

Their choices, God willing, will be honorable.

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