The Son is a novel by Philipp Meyer which charts the generations of a family of Texan cattle barons. It is about the rise and fall of the American empire, the illusion of civilization, the legacy of family and maybe fate. It is a grand epic that gallops along and is worth your time.
A recurring theme in my conversation with my supervisor and my colleagues in Aberdeen has been the meaning of names. Yesterday, my dear office-mate preached a fantastic sermon in his church where he talked about the way that God’s naming of people is an expression of his gracious authority. My supervisor is working on a commentary on Genesis in which I think he might have very interesting things to say about what it means that Moses tells us that God brought the animals before Adam to be named.
And in The Son, we find this musing on the way that the Cherokee named their young and renamed them.
A child was not named by his parents, but by a relative or a famous person in the tribe; maybe for a deed that person had done, maybe for an object that struck their fancy. If a particular name was not serving well, the child might be renamed; for instance, Charges the Enemy had been a small and timid child and it was thought that giving him a braver name might cure these problems, which it had. Some people in the tribe were renamed a second or third time in adult life, if their friends and family found something more interesting to call them. The owner of the German captive Yellow Hair, whose birth name was Six Deer, was renamed Lazy Feet as a teenager, which stuck to him the rest of his life. Toshaway’s son Fat Wolf was so named because his namer had seen a very fat wolf the previous night, and being an interesting sight and not a bad name it had stuck. Toshaway’s name meant Bright Button, which had also stuck with him since birth, but that seemed a strange thing to call him so I thought of him as Toshaway. Spanish-sounding names were also common, though they often had no particular meaning—Pizon, Escuté, Concho—there was a warrior named Hisoo-ancho who had been captured at the age of seven or eight, whose Christian name was Jesus Sanchez, and, as that was all he would answer to, that was what he was called.
Your Correspondent, Has got a cave full of bats in his skull