Posted in Recovery, Today's File

Words Have Meaning, Names Have Power

“Proper names are poetry in the raw.  Like all poetry they are untranslatable.”  ~W.H. Auden

I wrote the other day about my husband’s new life with new name, so it seems appropriate to share about mine as well.  My given name is Janna, which means “Gift from God.”  (And, interestingly enough, is a feminine form of my hubby’s given name of John…)  When my Hawai’ian husband and I met in rehab, he playfully started calling me “Kana Girl”—Kana being the transliteration of Janna to a language without a letter J.

Keoni's neck... I like to label things that belong to me. ;)

We liked the idea that the Hawai’ian word “Makana” (often shortened to Kana when used as a name) also means Gift, so it serves as both a transliteration and a translation of the original.  And because I enjoy wordplay and layers of meanings, I’ll also gleefully note that “Kana” in Japanese is a form of writing, and “Kana” in the old Celtic languages (nod here to my Irish heritage) means “to sing.”  On the premise that a blogger might be a modern-day bard, I embrace those meanings as well.

Quick side-note, because several folks have asked about pronunciation…  Kana rhymes with…  iguana.  Don’t ask me what that rhyme-choice says about me! (Although “Kana” in Tamil means a small reptile, so maybe there’s our connection.)

When I married Keoni and added Makana to my legal name, it was in no way a repudiation of the lovely name my parents gave me.  It’s a fresh twist on the original –which I kept legally as my first name, though I use Kana now.  We have an A.A. friend named Dennis who describes his sober-self as “Dennis2.0”—and for the several years that I’ve been introducing and identifying myself as Kana, that’s how I’ve thought of the newer name.

As a fellow blogger (fittingly commenting under the handle ChangedbyChange) observed after my story about Keoni taking on a new name as he embarked on Sobriety: “It’s incredible how much of our identity is tied to our names isn’t it? I know many people who have gone by a different version of their names after a pivotal moment in life.”  So true!

The other piece of my marriage name-change I actually left in the hands of my son Christian, who was seven at the time.  He’s always been a serious-minded little guy, and I wasn’t sure how he’d feel about the idea of Mommy not sharing his last name.  (I was less worried about my daughter, who’s younger, whose personality is markedly different–and let’s face it, a last name often isn’t a permanent item for a girl anyway.)

identity from a previous life...

So, without sharing my own preferences–namely, that I really didn’t want any part of my ex’s name stuck to mine, even though it’s also my children’s name, and even though I had publications and a professional reputation under that name–I asked Christian if I should hyphenate my name when I remarried, so as to keep a surname in common with him.  He looked at me with all his seven-year-old seriousness and decided, “That would be unnecessarily complicated, Mom.  You should just take Keoni’s name.”  I silently thank him for that decision every day.

I have actually been accused of trying to “hide my history” with my name-changing, given that (in addition to that professional reputation I mentioned) my criminal record and alcoholic reputation would also be more easily connected to my previous name.  I find the accusation pretty laughable, though, since I’m nothing if not open about my past. (In case you’re new to this space or have not been paying attention: I AM AN ALCOHOLIC.) Oops, there I go hiding my history again…

One more name change today… When I started up this site ten weeks ago, it was initially just a test-run for a freelance project I’d bid on, and for which I found myself needing to quickly get familiar with WordPress.  So I didn’t spend a lot of time or thought on naming it–and while “Kana’s Notebook” has been an accurate enough descriptor, it lacks a little in the “pizazz” department.  Since I’m a shameless fan of alliteration, I’m rechristening today: Kana’s Chronicles.

And with that…  This is Kana Iguana, signing off!


I am... a writer, an explorer, a coffee-drinker, a recovering addict, a barefoot linguist, a book-dragon ("bookworm" doesn't cover it), a raconteur, a sailboat skipper, a research diver, a tattooed scholar, a pirate, a poet, a spiritual adventurer, a photographer, a few kinds-of-crazy, a joyful wife, a mom... a list-maker! :)

25 thoughts on “Words Have Meaning, Names Have Power

  1. I really agree with this. Names are such an important reflection of how we see ourselves and present ourselves to the world. I was just reading an article about naming book characters today, and it made me ponder real-life names as well.

    Thanks for sharing!


  2. I love that you changed your name to signify a change in your life. I’ve thought about dropping my given first name in the past (I go by my middle name and have a first name I’m not too fond of), but I just don’t have the courage.


  3. I was surprised at how much meaning a name has when I was last talking to my dad about how I want to publish. The name Ileandra Young is one I chose sooooo long ago because of what the name represented to me and the story behind where it came from. Its always been the name I write under or perform under since that day.

    It was only when talking to Dad about publication that I realised he was quite upset because I wasn’t using MY name. The one that he and Mum chose for me and most of all my surname. I think he got even more distressed when he realised that ‘young’ is my mum’s name (they’ve been divorced for quite some time).

    I hadn’t realised, until that day how much power a name has, and how important it can be for oneself as well as other people, so I continue to appreciate you sharing these very personal stories.


  4. I also changed my name when I remarried. It seemed the natural thing to do and I agree with the previous comment that it signifies a change in your life. I have to say though that my previous surname ‘Brown’ has stayed with me as it is my son’s surname and every now and then when I have to sign something I have to consciously focus so as not to write ‘Brown’. I’m sure that some would say that there is a deep psychological reason for this. Me I think that despite my divorce my time as Mrs Brown wasn’t all bad and so I’m happy to have this name kicking around as part of the me then. Like the new name Kana Chronicles by the way.


  5. I agree 100%. At one of my life coaching sessions I was encouraged to give different versions of me different names. It helped incredibly as I created a ‘fun and flamboyant’ me, a serious me, an ‘overall’ me and others. It was also fascinating to have it pointed out to me how fast I switched between the different versions of me just by calling me the name I’d allocated to that version.

    I use Caroline for my blog for many reasons – it is one of my names but not the one I use anywhere other than here in the ‘ether’!

    Love the new name for your blog by the way.


  6. It took me several years to change back to my maiden name after my divorce. I’d had that name longer and had all the attachments you mentioned (professional, etc.). But I my married name never really fit me, and I found I wanted to reclaim the youngster in me and the family ties.
    We are who we think we are.


  7. I think that I am a rarity in recovery that I am still with the same husband. My last blog entry talked about some of the changes made and I would have loved a new name to go along with them.
    p.s. love the new look as well as the new name!


  8. I like that name change… I too changed my name legally and I think the process forces you to think about how you want to define yourself. Cheers!


  9. Your posts on names jogged an almost forgotten memory. When I was pretty young, my dad gathered some of us kids together (there were 9 of us in all but I don’t think we were all present) and asked us if we liked our names, or if we would prefer to be called something else. I never really thought about it until now. It didn’t mean anything to me then, I was too young. I probably thought, “This is a wierd question!” Now, I realize what a present my dad was offering. I wonder why he asked and wish he was still around so I could find out.


  10. Another wonderful Kana Tyler post! Names do have power, and it’s interesting how that plays out in mythology. Giving someone your true name allows them power over you. I like the concept of a name change as a sort of rebirth.

    “Chronicles” works well! I like the ring that comes along with the name. :)


  11. Got to love you Kana. Johanna too means “Gift of God”, though I never felt that I was. My arrival resulted in a very unhappy marriage for my parents, who divorced when I was 5.
    Strangely I’ve always been involved in a name tug of war. Dad wanted to call me Joasia, after my Polish auntie, but I ended up answering to Janice at home. For many years I mistakenly thought it was on my birth certificate. But I’ve become Jo over time and it seems to suit me.
    I shall be more than happy to carry on reading Kana Chronicles.


  12. YOU–hide your “real identity–NEVER! Yes, names ARE important. In recent years I have just very happily used only “Rose Byrd” (first and last names on my birth certificate) in all except family circles. But I don’t hide my married name: all those with a legitimate need for it have access to it! But I DO love celebrating who I was born to be, who I am centering down into myself to re-expose, folks! Watch out! You give me fresh courage and inspiration to BE ME everytime I read one of your posts!


  13. Names are meaningful to the holder. I changed mine back to my maiden name after a nearly 30 year marriage because it seemed I had found what had been long lost. I enjoyed the story of yours.


  14. Love the idea that you changed your name to signify the changes that you have made in your life! Also love that tattoo!!!!


  15. I think names are so very important – but aside from that – I admire what you’ve done with yours – embraced a new way of living and given it voice with a name – yours…


  16. Now you answered my question… I wondered about the blog name change. Good for you and I love your story about your name too. It’s all good! :-) TY for your patience as I have been adjusting to a changed schedule in my life … Glad to comment again. :-)


  17. I agree with your son, the hyphenation would be much too complicated. Also, it seems letting go of that past name and changing to a new one definitely signifies the changes you are making in your new life.
    Looking forward to more from Kana’s Chronicles! :)


  18. Great story :)

    I’m about to change my name, once I marry. At first I was a little torn – my surname is linked to my heritage, which I’m proud of. But on the other hand, it’s very common, very boring, I have a disconnected relationship with a lot of my family and I still have my middle name to carry on the Welsh vibe. And I’ve never really felt that my surname matched my given name.

    So, my name will change from Jones to Hale, which is (only slightly) more unusual and exotic! And I love the feeling of belonging to a family unit with my husband, and his wonderful family who have accepted me with open arms. I definitely relate to letting go of the previous life (which has not been easy).


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