An unfortunate name 3

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The Bible tells us that a good name is more desirable than great riches.

I’m not surprised that a recent British study of 3,000 parents found that 20 per cent of them regretted the name they had chosen for their little bundle of joy. Reasons included the difficulty of spelling the name, being fed up with people not pronouncing the name properly and realising that the name chosen at birth had reflected some clever fad at the time and had now outworn its novelty and only looked stupid.

Not surprisingly and especially in Germany and Austria, the first name Adolf — once wildly popular or very common depending on your perspective — has fallen so low in popularity since 1945 that it is hard to find a kiddy so named. Mind you, there are still men in Germany aged in their 80s with this name — they were born when Herr Hitler ran the show.

Men, particularly in the United States, who have the first name Osama have been subjected to verbal and even physical abuse since the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York’s World Trade Centre in 2001. Osama bin Laden, the founder of terrorist organisation Al-Qaeda which launched the attack, was killed by the US military in May, 2011.

Now a name for female children has become a real burden for many of them. The name is Isis.

When Sydney parents Sheridan and Frank Leskien considered a name for their newly born baby girl 10 years ago they chose Isis because, according to ancient mythology, it represented a strong, vocal figure.

The wife of Osiris and mother of Horus, the god of the sun, Isis was one of the most important goddesses of ancient Egypt. She is depicted as a woman with outstretched, winged arms and was revered as the people’s goddess, teaching wisdom, agriculture and medicine. More than any other goddess, Isis represented the complete female.
When Mrs Leskien went public in Sydney media she said, “Every day there’s some sort of reference in the media or brought up in conversation about fighting ISIS, about how ISIS is evil, and I’ve worried that she’s going to be targeted.

“It’s ruining our family and it’s ruining Isis’ future. I’m heartbroken for all of the families being affected (by Islamic State), the journalists, the different people who are suffering but my family is suffering too,” she said.

Astoundingly, Mrs Leskien said that friends had abandoned the family who live in Bexley in Sydney’s south, saying that they are afraid of being associated with them. Isis’s brother, Maximus, who is five years older has been teased for years at school because of his sister’s name and has been in fights defending her.

Certainly these parents have a fondness for symbolic names for their children although Maximus doesn’t have the bother his little sister does — Maximus means “greatest” or “largest” in Latin and is associated with many ancient greats from Roman generals and Greek philosophers to Christian saints.

While Mrs Leskien is understandably worried about comments made about ignorant people, she remains defiant and will not change her daughter’s name. “Some people say we should change her name but that is just ridiculous,” she said.

Around the world women and girls with this name are being targeted.

Recently in the United Kingdom, an 11-year-old girl named Isis was interviewed and she said, “I was really proud of (my name).” And now? The reported story said the girl simply said, “I just…” before her mother stepped in asking her daughter, “You wanted to change your name, didn’t you?” The girl agreed.

A woman also in the UK, Isis Blackwell, named by her parents in the 1980s, loved her name saying it was a good conversation starter and made her feel special and different.

In 2012 she was sent an article about the jihadist group on Facebook with the comment, “I see you’ve been up to no good.”

“It was a joke, I suppose. Disheartening, but I didn’t think it would last,” she said. Unfortunately it just got worse. At work, she has to wear a name tag, and she gets a barrage of disparaging comments. She was even temporarily banned from Facebook earlier this year.

A US woman, Isis Martinez, started a petition in 2014 urging the media to stop using the name to describe the terrorist group. So far, it has attracted more than 65,000 signatures but it hasn’t had the slightest media impact. She now goes by a different name at work.

In 1975, Bob Dylan wrote and recorded a song about an unhappy marriage.

“Oh Isis, oh, Isis, you mystical child

What drives me to you is what drives me insane.”

More than 40 years later, the mystical children named Isis are being driven mad by the ignorant and the vindictive.

What do you think about what Russell has to say? Do you know the history behind your name? Share it with us.

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Russell Grenning

Russell Grenning is a Brisbane-based former journalist and retired political adviser who began his career with the ABC in 1968 in Brisbane and subsequently worked on the Brisbane afternoon daily, "The Telegraph" and later as a columnist for "The Courier Mail" and "The Australian". He worked for a string of senior Ministers in the Federal, Victorian and Queensland Governments as well as in senior executive public relations positions, including Assistant Federal Director, Public Relations, for Australia Post, Public Relations Manager for the Queensland Department of Main Roads and Principal Adviser, Corporate Relations, for the Queensland Law Society.

  1. Put up with it or change it; don’t whinge about it!

  2. This article is NOT what the Bible meant by a ‘good name’!
    That refers to people, at a minimum, being of ‘good character’.

  3. A really interesting article Russell. I’ve just got back to rereading all my old Wilbur Smith novels again after about 20-30 years.
    Some of Wilbur’s christian names for his heroes were quite unusual, ie: Garrick, Zouga, Centaine, Lothar, Shasa, Waite, Blaine,
    Storm, Hector and Dorian. I wonder if we’ll ever see names like these surface again in times to come?

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