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Star Wars and the Name Game

Star Wars and the Name Game

Jay’s Galactic Espressionslandscape-1450794162-movies-starwars-poe-finn-1

“I call everyone ‘Darling’, because I can’t remember their names.”
-Zsa Zsa Gabor

What’s in a name?

They’re just a bunch of letters that form words, right? Actually, names are so incredibly powerful, that the concept of “naming” has been an integral part of every culture, religion and belief system around the world. Among everything: from objects to people…pets to phenomena, names are as influential as they are immortal.

If you’ve been a faithful reader of my blogs (and I hope you have been), you may be thinking that this subject sounds familiar to you. You’re correct: I spoke about this topic in one of my very first blog entries for Coffee With Kenobi. However, because I’m so enamored with the psyche, power, and philosophy of names in general, I wanted to revisit some new ideas and personal revelations I’ve had since the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as well as some other personal a-ha moments, as represented at various points in the Star Wars saga.

“Well, I ain’t usin’ it! FN, huh? Finn…I’m gonna call you Finn!”

Of course, we remember this line in The Force Awakens. Finn introduces himself to Poe Dameron as FN-2187, a call-sign — meant to keep order and practicality — not a real name. Poe gives Finn a sort of “baptism” into his new life: a life that leaves behind all Finn has ever known, and allows him to wipe the slate clean with this whole new identity.

As Finn goes forward, he totally embraces his new name and identity. When Rey asks his name aboard the Millennium Falcon, we see him square his shoulders, smile resolutely, and say: “I’m Finn.” There is so much power in that one instant.

finn and reyI can completely relate to that moment, and I know exactly what Finn felt at that instant:

Freedom.

I was born with the first name Joyce. I’m named after my mom (which is an honor to me), but as much as I’ve always loved the name, I always wanted another way to identify myself as an individual. I was nicknamed J.J. (Joyce Junior) growing up, and eventually that morphed into Jay, or Jay Bird, as my hubby calls me. But, very few people knew to call me Jay, and I wanted that so badly!

My opportunity came when I met some amazing people through Star Wars. The first time I introduced myself as Jay was when I joined the official Star Wars online blogging group known as Hyperspace. It was such an exhilarating feeling:

Freedom.

Is Jay the name of my true self?

Consider this interaction between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi:

Luke: “…you were once Anakin Skywalker, my father.”

Vader: [firmly] “That name no longer has any meaning for me.”

Luke: “It is the name of your true self. You’ve only forgotten.”

luke n vader

To me, this exchange is so powerful. I am immediately taken back to that first fateful encounter on Tatooine, where a little boy is struggling with his sense of self, and his purpose in the galaxy:

“I’m a PERSON and my name is ANAKIN!”

At that time, he seemed so sure of himself, of the fact that he was so much more than a slave. Ironically, that little boy became the most enslaved soul of all: enslaved by the Dark Side, and enslaved by an evil emperor, who only used him to further an agenda of selfish machinations. Ironic, isn’t it?

little aniDo you have a name that you consider to be representative of your “true self?” Is it one that was given to you, or did you acquire it in another fashion? Did you choose it yourself?

Relative to this idea, a passage in the novel Twilight Company (Alexander Freed) stuck out to me. In this passage, Hazram Namir, captain of Twilight Company, is asking his new recruits about their names:

“What’s your name?” he asked.
The girl scooted in her seat until she could look up at Namir.
“Roach,” she said.
Namir watched her. Her jaw was set. She no longer twitched. “That what you want to be called?” he asked.
“Yes.”
Namir laughed louder than he’d intended. “More advice,” he called as he glanced at the others. “If you’ve got friends back home you want to protect, or you just feel like starting fresh? Now’s a good time to pick a new identity. No one in Twilight cares who you were, but once you make us learn a new name, you better keep it.”

One of my favorite quotes about names has some different versions floating around, but the meaning is the same:

When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. Like your name is safe in their mouth.”

I am immediately hit by the image of Padmé, struggling through the birth of her two precious twins. As she looks upon each one lovingly, and says their names as they are presented to her, a beautiful peace washes over her face. I can truly feel that love as the names of Luke and Leia are spoken – safe in her mouth and within her soul – regardless of what the galaxy’s future may hold for them.

padme childbirth

I experienced a similar feeling when Rey introduces herself to Han in The Force Awakens. The way he repeats her name, the smile on his face and the sense of adoration as he looks upon her are palpable. Although he’s just become acquainted with her, its obvious that when he says her name, it’s safe in his mouth.

starwars_han-solo-with-rey-in-star-wars-7Let’s contrast that with when Han says his own son’s name a bit later in the movie. Names have weight and dominion over us, and they can also be used to ridicule:

“Ben!!” Han shouts across the catwalk…
“Han Solo. I’ve been waiting for this day a long time.”

In this short, seemingly simple exchange between father and son, Han calls out to his boy by his given name. Not Kylo Ren, a mockery – even a caricature – of his one and only child. He uses the authority in his voice that only a dad can, just like when your mom used your full and middle name, and you knew you were in for it! Instead, Ben only turns around and addresses his father by HIS given name. Not “dad,” or father. This use of Han’s name, undoubtedly was like a slap in the face and a stake to the heart. It assumes a lack – or denial – of familiar bond on Ben’s part. He has forsaken his personal born identity, and now forsakes his birthright and parentage.

When it comes to Rey, we all know that she doesn’t have a last name (surname), at least not at this point. According to a site called Behind the Name, surnames began in Europe during the 12th century, as a way to distinguish between families. Many men had the first name John, William or Richard. “To uniquely identify them, people began referring to different Williams as William the son of Andrew (leading to Anderson), William the cook (leading to Cook), William from the brook (leading to Brooks), William the brown-haired (leading to Brown), and so on. Eventually these surnames became inherited, being passed from parents to children.(1)” This also helps explain why women took on their husbands’ surnames.

So, having a last name gives a person a legacy. Often, that legacy is tied to a history. Right now, because Rey has no last name (that we know of), she can’t be “pigeon-holed” into an expected family legacy. I like this, at least right now, because I want Rey to have her OWN identity, separate from what some may stereotype her into, based on her surname.

As a teacher, I am hyper-aware of last names. I teach in a relatively small high school, with around 500 students in the building, so I get to know families and students pretty well. I’m entering into my 24th year of teaching, so I’ve had siblings of students past, and now I’m even starting to get the kids of my former students! If I see a familiar last name, I am always careful NOT to ask kids “Oh, so are you so-and-so’s sister (brother, etc.)?” I avoid this especially on the first day – or even weeks – of school. I wait until I get to know the student for him/herself, then I might plug it into a conversation. That way, I avoid any stereotyping of action, or “expected outcome” of behavior. I do this mainly because I understand first-hand why being related to someone isn’t always a welcome thing, when it comes to behavior or performance assumptions:

I am the youngest of five kids, and my brother closest in age to me kind of made himself a name for being a not-so-motivated student, and…well, let’s say he “experimented” with things. There are six years between us. I’ll never forget my first day of freshman year, sitting in Biology class, and as the teacher went through roll call, she eventually got to my name. She said it with a palpable disdain in her voice, looking up from her roster, over her glasses and said “are you _____________’s little sister?” When I answered “yes,” she rolled her eyes, gave an audible “pfft!”, and went on to the next name. I was a bit peeved at this exchange. I wanted to scream “hey, I’m not like my brother!!” But, instead, I had to prove myself to her. I had to work harder than some of my peers. I did, and eventually she started to warm up, but it was a hard row to hoe at first.

So, long story short, that’s my personal reason for my delight at Rey not having a last name – at least not yet!

Names fascinate me!!

Do you have a favorite name in Star Wars, or a musing about any of the points I’ve brought up?

I’d love to hear from you!

Leave your comments below, or you can contact me directly! My favorite social media vice is Twitter, just so you know!

email: jayk@coffeewithkenobi.com
Follow me on Twitter! I have two accounts: @JoyceKrebs, @KrebsKlass (my classroom account)
Proud to be Rogue 7 at Star Wars in the Classroom
Instagram: @KrebsKlass
Pinterest: Jay Krebs

May the Force be with you, and remember…

Coffee With Kenobi

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(1) “Family Name: Glossary.” Behind the Name. Mike and Tara Campbell, n.d. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.

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15 Comments

  1. Dennis Keithly (@DJKver2)
    August 18, 2016 at 11:51 Reply

    Great blog entry, Jay.

    I remember when I was in third grade, my teacher, Mrs. Cowan, was going through the class roster and asking students if she was pronouncing names correctly and what they preferred to be called. When she got to me, I informed her that most people called me “Denny.” She asked whether I preferred to be called “Denny” or “Dennis.” I’m not sure why, but I said “Dennis.” I had never really been “Dennis” before then. In fact, most people that know me from before then still call me “Denny,” but everyone that has met me since calls me “Dennis.”

    I, like you, was named after a parent. That may have had something to do with it. My father is still “Denny” to most. My son is also a Dennis, but he goes by his initials, “DJ.” I like that there is a legacy, but that we also have our own identities.

    Once again, great blog entry.

    1. Jay Krebs
      August 19, 2016 at 15:57 Reply

      Thanks so much for stopping by! I love that story, and it’s so interesting to me to hear how people’s names have changed and evolved over his/her lifetime. Very cool that you have a “family legacy” as well! 🙂
      In terms of legacy: My oldest son also has the same middle name as my husband and his dad. Fun!!
      Thanks again for your read, and your support! 🙂

  2. Audra Weiker
    August 18, 2016 at 12:11 Reply

    Names are very powerful. Doesn’t matter whether or not it’s a first name, last name or a nickname. It does become that person’s identity. I like the fact that Rey’s surname is not known at this point. As a new character in the saga I agree she does need her own identity. I do know that some are trying to put her into either the Skywalker clan or the Kenobi clan. Only time will tell. As for me, I hope that part does not come out until the last movie. But that’s just me.

    As far as Kylo Ren/Ben is concerned, he is attempting to use his new identity (Kylo) to separate himself from his family, yet he still hold onto the past (his grandfather’s melted mask). He himself is still trying to figure out exactly who he is himself. Is he Kylo Ren, a servant to the dark side as Darth Vader was? Or will he ultimately realize that he is Ben Solo, the grandson of the redeemed Anakin Skywalker?

    When I was a child growing up, everyone called me Nikki (my middle name was Nicole). It wasn’t until kindergarten that I finally was told that I had the option of using that in school or going by my first name -Audra. I chose the latter. When I started dating my husband, it became awkward sometimes because my grandparents still called me Nikki. It was hard for them to call me Audra because Nikki is what I had been called since birth.

    Your name is your identity to everyone who crosses your path. Whether it’s a family member, a friend, a schoolteacher, or your boss, it is who you are. Be proud of it and use the name you choose to go by.

    1. Jay Krebs
      August 19, 2016 at 16:01 Reply

      Ben (Kylo Ren) is such an intruguing young man, indeed. It’s obvious he’s strugling with his sense of self, and you’ve certainly brought up a lot of good points!
      That’s such a cool story about your upbringing – I had a friend through school that was also referred to by her middle name (Lydia), although her first name was actually Jaqueline. I think she still goes by Lydia, though!

      I also know people who have nicknames that have taken over their identity! My hubby and I have a good friend, who we’ve always referred to as “Bum” or “Bummie”. It wasn’t until I had known him for at least 5 years that I learned his real name was actually Eric! I can’t call him Eric to this day…! 🙂
      Thanks so much for taking time to stop by and share your thoughts!!

      ((((hugs))))

  3. Lisa Dullard
    August 18, 2016 at 12:24 Reply

    When I was born, I was sickly. I spent some time in the hospital, without a name. My Mom wanted Jamie, but my Dad said that was a boy’s name. Then she wanted Colleen, but I have a first cousin named Colleen. So, while eating at a diner across from the hospital, my parents noticed a nice piece of artwork on the paper placemats (remember those?) at their table. The artist’s name was Lisa. I guess they both liked the sound of what would become THE most popular name of 1968! Throughout my life, many of my friends, classmates, and eventually co-workers, were named Lisa. My best friend was named Lisa. I once went to an Elton John concert with four other girls named Lisa, and one Debbie. Sigh….

    To this day, I wish my name was Jamie. I put more thought into my Pug’s name than my parents put into my name! Ah, well. They tried. 😉

    1. Jay Krebs
      August 19, 2016 at 16:08 Reply

      Wow – I did not know that you had such a rough start in this world – so glad you’re here today to tell this story!! ((((hugs))))

      I think Lisa is a beautiful name! It’s funny – I always wished I’d had a different first name, as well! I remember in French class in 7th grade – the French teacher just gave us the translated version of our English name, so mine was Joie. Well…meh. Then when I got into high school, and when I got to know my French teacher well enough, I asked if I could change my name. She told me I could hyphenate it, because she knew me as Joie, so I picked Joie-Danielle. I’ve always loved the name Danielle!!

      For my Catholic confirmation name, I chose Kathleen, because that saint’s name was also the name of my favorite aunt. When I got married, I legally changed my middle name to be hyphenated with my original, so now it’s Ann-Kathleen! 🙂

      …and Joxer is awesome 😉

      Thanks so much for sharing your story!! 🙂

      1. Lisa Dullard
        August 19, 2016 at 17:09 Reply

        My Mom’s name was Loretta, but she called herself Laura. She hated her birth name! I love it — go figure. I guess we’re never happy!

        I’m Lisa Ann, and my Confirmation name is Agnes (which was my maternal grandma’s first name). Made my Mom happy, and Agnes is a pretty cool saint, too.

        I always said if I had a daughter, I’d name her Loretta Veronica (that’s my maternal grandma’s middle name). I know I’d have to call her Laura, though, or my Mom would haunt me. 😉

        1. Jay Krebs
          August 20, 2016 at 17:09 Reply

          Loretta Veronica has a very nice sound to it 🙂

  4. Hannah
    August 19, 2016 at 16:28 Reply

    Interesting article…I really like this one. 🙂 I agree names are definitely something special.

    1. Jay Krebs
      August 20, 2016 at 17:09 Reply

      Thank you!

  5. Pam Bruchwalski
    August 19, 2016 at 21:49 Reply

    Ah names. Such a great subject. I like what you have to say about Rey not having a last name. It leaves her wide open with possibilities.

    My name is still a work in progress as I’m still not 100% sure about it. Choosing Michel for my Confirmation name was a HUGE big deal to me, and I’ve decided to use it recently. But I’m still kind of stuck on the name I was given at birth. Just Pamela.

    I’m sure I’ve told you this, but I love Ann-Kathleen.

    1. Jay Krebs
      August 20, 2016 at 17:11 Reply

      I think just as our lives change, so do our identities, and names totally reflect that. So, it’s understandable that you feel your name is still a work in progress! 🙂

      …and thank you, I love my hypenated name, too 🙂

  6. Erica
    August 20, 2016 at 06:14 Reply

    Always fun to think about names. I love that Padme means lotus and Luke means light. Skywalker has to be the most brilliant surname ever. It’s so evocative. A character I’m curious about in Rogue One has the name Bodhi. I’m very interested to see what that he is like since Bodhi means awake in PalI–the ancient language of the Buddha. I love how thoughtful the SW universe is about names.

    Thanks for this entry!

    1. Jay Krebs
      August 20, 2016 at 17:14 Reply

      Thank YOU for your thoughtful insight, as always!
      Yes, so much meaning…! One character from the new season of Rebels – The Bendu – has me wondering…!
      I think it also interesting the names chosen for planets as well as characters. “Jedha” in Rogue One sounds an awful lot like “Jedi”, and its where Force-believers of the galaxy have taken refuge, as a sort of pilgrimage. We’ll see…! 🙂

  7. Melinda
    September 20, 2016 at 08:01 Reply

    What a great piece, Jay! I always have known you as Jay, and Jay you’ll always stay. 🙂

    I don’t know if I ever told you this story, but since it is germane to this topic, I’ll run the risk of repeating myself. 😉

    Growing up with the name I have, I was not particularly happy with it. From school to work to camp … when someone asked my name, and I’d respond, no one ever got it right (it wasn’t for lack of enunciation. The ears hear what they want to hear.). Most people would drop the first syllable completely (I know a couple of great ‘Lindas’, but I must admit it is not one of my favorite names). If I was lucky, most people would replace the “M” with a “B”, but again, I was not a big fan of ‘Belinda’. I won’t describe what the nickname version of Melinda makes me feel like. Suffice it to say I NEVER would answer to such a moniker! As the oldest of four in my family, and knowing that my brother and sisters all got what I consider “normal” names, I always wondered what possessed my parents to give me the name they gave me (yes, I asked, and was told “because I liked it.” Neither of my parents knew any ‘Melindas’ so I have no idea where they ever heard it. It isn’t until recently that the name started cropping up, rare though that may be, in television and film, so that wasn’t a possibility.). I couldn’t wait until I turned 18 so I could change my name. Suffice it to say, I learned to live with the name with which I was born. I still have it. 😉

    I think George Lucas, J.J. Abrams and everyone who has had a hand in naming the myriad of characters in that galaxy far, far away has had a lot of fun coming up with many of the names. There are those that at least appear to have deeper meanings behind them — Obi-Wan, Leia, Padme, Han SOLO, Qui-Gon Jinn, Luke. I’m sure there are more. You are absolutely right. Names (can) carry a lot of weight.

    “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But would it? Luke Skywalker was originally penned as Luke Starkiller. Now there’s a name that has different connotations. 😉

    MTFBWY 🙂

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