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What’s in a name, part 2

Returning, as promised, to some columns ago when the subject explored was the import — and impact — of a chosen name, it was interesting to receive feedback from readers. Also, as it often happens, this jumped out at me while reading: “Names are important. What you are called can be what you are. A person should have several names throughout life, and a secret name as well.”

This comes from Teresa Martino’s “The Wolf, the Woman, the Wilderness.” Reading the author’s account of running a rescue operation for animals, I learned she’d been told by an old woman how a young wolf’s grandparents had been captured out of the wild in the Mackenzie Mountains in Yukon territory. Therefore, Martino came up with the name “Mckenzie” for her orphaned wolf, liking its sound value. She changed the original spelling because, long before those mountains were named for the explorer Sir Alexander Mackenzie, they had other names. She wished to give a new twist to the name for her wolf. Although Mckenzie became the young wolf’s first name, “… already, I call her by her second name, Baby.”

Nicknames. Secret names. I’m sure many of us can look back on such over our lifetimes as we grew and were part of various groups and endeared ourselves to special people within our lives.

Returning to the subject of Hawaiian names and they should be received with permission or as a gift, here is what one “Green Flash” reader wrote on the subject of names and naming.

“I … wanted to share the story of my daughter Mohalapua Pohaku’okalani … and her name.

“A Hawaiian friend of mine gave Mohala her name. At the time, Mohala’s mother wanted to name her Mahala Pohaku.” I insisted that we have someone fluent in Hawaiian and knowledgeable about naming traditions advise us if we were to use any semblance on a Hawaiian name. We went to see my friend who said ‘Mahala is not a word; she must mean Mohala. But Mohala what? Mohalapua (blossoms flower). And she cannot just be Pohaku or she will be dense slow and heavy like a rock; we must add ‘okalani to give some lightness.’ After much debate between Mohala’s mother and myself, we agreed, Mohalapua Pohaku’okalani it would be.

“My friend who gave the name was very intuitive in the naming. Mohala’s mother and I had a rocky relationship. We split up shortly before Mohala turned 1 year old and ended up in and out of court of custody … (for about four years) with a lot of high conflict. … Nonetheless, Mohala has grown to be an amazing light being and an exceptional child. Now here is where it gets really interesting as far as the name goes. We had always translated Mohala’s name to be ‘blossoming flower of the heavenly rock’ (because) that is how my friend explained it when she named her. However one day shortly after the large landslide on Waialeale, my friend was … looking out at the mountain talking with me and my wife (Mohala’s step-mom) and said to us, ‘Mohala’s name, you know, the Pohaku’okalani is the rock that has fallen down from the top of the mountain in a landslide and the Mohalapua is the flower that is blossoming in the rubble below.’

“That is what her name means; I see it now in full, before the name was just given to me in Hawaiian, I heard it but I didn’t know its full meaning — but now I understand its meaning.”

My reader/responder ended by saying the column about naming stirred him to write his daughter’s naming story as he found it to be “pretty amazing” given all that had taken place. He feels that his daughter “Mohala is truly a flower that has blossomed from the rubble after her parents’ relationship ended in a landslide.” And he granted me permission to use it here. (Mahalo!)

Right now, with one of my grandsons on the verge of high school graduation, I am considering his given name, Ryan. His mother tells me it means “Little King,” or “Young Ruler,” and I would say this holds true for him, being the firstborn of two sons. Right behind him comes “Evan,” holding the meaning of “Young Warrior,” or “Archer,” “Messenger” and (literal) “Rock.” I don’t have to mull this over, for I believe all of these fit our family’s solid young Evan.

When my youngest son, Evan’s Uncle Jason, was born back in a frozen blizzard time of Ohio, the fountain that had always gushed freely and high before the hospital where he made his entrance froze for the first time ever. It appeared as a crystal formation held in mid-air, and made me think of what type of a name to choose for this particular child. I had been reading Ohio history at that time, and had just come across the story of how, when the great Ohio chief Tecumseh was born as one of a pair of twins, his mother waited in the traditional Native American manner to watch for a sign, for naming. When she emerged from her teepee at night and gazed at the sky, she was struck to see a pair of shooting stars blaze across the darkness — the first one, brightest — and chose “Tecumseh” or “Shooting Star” for the first son, and some other name (now forgotten) for the second one. Sure enough, Tecumseh blazed his way as a leader of his tribe after he grew to manhood, and negotiated the best he could in the way of treaties that affected his tribe.

Wrapping this talk-story for today, “Frozen Fountain” or “Crystal Fall” just didn’t seem proper names for a boy-child. It was his sister Angela (angelic!) whose name suggestion “took,” and we admittedly have teased Jason at times about being in search of his Golden Fleece. (He actually had a golden fleece sent him from Down Under by his aunt!) When he became an engineer, what type of engineer? I was not surprised: water quality and reclamation.


Dawn Fraser Kawahara writes on Kauai, lives quietly “with birds and books” when not traveling and exploring the world with her husband. She continues as principal/owner of DAWN Enterprises, TropicBird Press and TropicBird Weddings and Celebrations-Kauai.


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