The Name Game

The following is an attempt at the "signature experiment" that Michale Jarrett describes in his book Drifting on a Read.


The Name Game

Christopher (krĭ’s’te-fer) n. Saint. fl. 3rd cent. A.D. Christian Martyr often depicted as a giant who carried travelers across a river. (American Heritage Dictionary)

Graham Cracker (grăm, grā-em) n A slightly sweet, usu. Rectangular cracker made with whole-wheat flour. [GRAHAM FLOUR] (American Heritage Dictionary)

Hall (hôl)n. 1. A corridor or passageway in a building.
2. A large entrance room or vestibule in a building; a lobby.
a. A building for public gatherings or entertainments.
b. The large room in which such events are held.
4. A building used for the meetings, entertainments, or living quarters of a fraternity, sorority, church, or other social or religious organization.
a. A building belonging to a school, college, or university that provides classroom, dormitory, or dining facilities.
b. A large room in such a building.
c. The group of students using such a building: The entire hall stayed up late studying.
d. Chiefly British A meal served in such a building.
6. The main house on a landed estate.
a. The castle or house of a medieval monarch or noble.
b. The principal room in such a castle or house, used for dining, entertaining, and sleeping

        My first name finds its origins, as do so many things, in ancient Greece. According to a website called Think Baby Names, the name was originally spelled Khristophoros, and means “bearing Christ inside” ( This matches, pretty closely, the story I learned about my name growing up, which was basically that Christopher was the name of a Saint who carried Jesus across a river in his time of need, or something to that effect. Since I had the blessing to be raised by pantheistic parents who had long since severed ties with organized religion, I never really thought much of the story of my name. Nevertheless, I was also instilled at an early age for reverence for traditions, tolerance for ways different from my own, and appreciation for history and the origins of things, so I have always sort of thought about how I might be a “Christ bearer” of some sort, but only in the loosest, most metaphorical sense. When I have spent time thinking about my name I have thought of the role of the Christopher to be that of bearing one who bears the cross, that is, of helping others, more remarkable than I, advance their cause whatever it may be.

        St. Christopher is also often associated with travel, and travelers often sport Saint Christopher medals to protect them on their journeys. I’ve always found this ironic, because I don’t particularly like to travel. Perhaps my name has served me as a protective talisman in roundabout way because I’ve never been given to wanderlust.

        According to the genealogy section of another website, the surname Hall may have come from an old Norse word meaning “boulder, slope”, suggesting that the name may have originally referred to a family or tribe living on a hill or mountainside ( I accepted this information since it seemed consistent with that offered on several other websites that deal with the origins and meaning of surnames, but an opposing interpretation of the name’s etymology popped up in several places too. The other possible meaning for “Hall” is that it referred to a family or tribe living in a spacious residence, a “hall” in a sense very close to the dictionary definition of the word. Of course other explanations exist and more occurred to me as I thought about my name’s meaning. Could “Hall” have once been closer to the word “hail”? If this were the case, it would do much to please my vanity – perhaps my ancestors were “hail” in the sense of the word that means “in sound health, whole of body”. I could go further down this particular rabbit-hole, perhaps endlessly—there is no shortage of words in English that are only one or two letters off from “Hall” and still others that are essentially homonymous. Howl, Hell, Heal, Hole, Whole, Halt, Hallo, Hallow, but Help me out and let me stop this list, lest I be caught endlessly in the endless relay of signifiers.

        Graham is undoubtedly as etymologically rich as any other word or name, but for me its meaning shall be confined to an early childhood conversation I had with my brother about my middle name, one in which he told me one of those charming lies older siblings tell their juniors simply in order to put one over on them. It’s a good memory, and for me it’s the most meaningful meaning I can think of for my middle name. My brother and I were comparing our names, and I said something like “hey, maybe my middle name is Graham because I like graham crackers!” 

        To which he replied, “Oh yes, that’s it for sure. Didn’t they (meaning our parents) tell you? They knew you would like graham crackers so they gave you the middle name Graham.”Good memories. After that we jumped on the bed and raised hell, as kids are wont to do. Good times.

        I didn’t find out that Graham was a proper name until years later.



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