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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Grow

Question #3: What's In a Name? Part 1

Updated: Oct 22, 2019

What's in a name?

Do you know why you were given the name you were? Did you ask your parents? I was told when they were considering my name that they were thinking either Deborah or Patricia. Japanese people are often surprised to know that Western names also carry meaning. Japanese families chose names for a variety of reasons as do Western families, perhaps to honor a relative or because the name has special meaning for them.

In my case, that I was named Deborah which fits me perfectly I think. The name means "industrious" or "busy bee", both of which I much prefer to a title bestowed upon me by someone who has known me for many years..."Whirling Dervish".

Why Deborah? I am not sure why they chose that name. It was a popular name at the time, probably for a few reasons. Deborah Kerr, a brilliant stage, theater and screen actress of Scottish descent, was very popular in my parents' time. For many years, I thought my father's grandmother was Irish because he said Grandmother McKinney but it was actually Grandmother Mackinney (Scottish). No wonder playing Fiona in Brigadoon was my favorite character in musical theater. A lass from Scotland! I can say I have hazel green eyes in common with her. (which you cannot tell from this photo).

Deborah Grow, Stage Actress
Deborah Grow, Stage Actress

Deborah Kerr, Stage Actress

Then there were other Deborah's or Debbie's of my parent's day, for example, Debbie Reynolds was America's sweetheart. A triple threat, she could sing, dance and act and was brilliant! Singin' in the Rain is one of my all-time favorite movies! She would not be a bad namesake either! I did do musical theater, opera and acting so to follow in her footsteps is also fine with me! As it turned out, many parents had the same ideas about Deborah Kerr and Debbie Reynolds, so throughout school, whenever the teacher called the name "Debbie", at least 3 people in the room would raise their hands. In elementary school, we are always together, Debbie Carter, Debbie Campbell, and Debbie Grow. I wasn't even first on the list of Debbies.

Amercia's Sweetheart, Debbie Reynolds
Debbie Reynolds, American Actress and Singer

Deborah Grow in NYC doing musicals and commercials
Deborah Grow, Musical and Commercial Actress

But often in western culture, there is also the Biblical or religious reason for a name. There was also Deborah in the old testament. Deborah was a prophetess, warrior, judge, and minstrel. She was a lyricist and urged men into battle with her songs. She was unafraid to physically lead men into battle

(a sort of Joan of Arc of her time). She was also a sort of minstrel. You might call her a jack-of-all-trades. I have been accused of this myself as I have many interests, including songwriting, acting, singing, writing, teaching, and leading people into battle and I am prone to judge others quite regularly although I do not think this qualifies me to be a judge.

So why is Sanshiro's name important in Japan? Next time, I will discuss the mean of Japanese names and how Sanshiro got his name.


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