Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What's in a name? Part II

Followers will recall this post where Mommy B explained the story behind Alli's name. Well, now it's my turn to explain the story behind Aiden's name. Mommy B and I decided when we were pregnant with Alli that if she was a boy, we were going to use my middle name. Since that didn't happen, we agreed that no matter what the sex was for our second child, we would use my middle name. And sure enough, Aiden Ringling decided to come a week and a half early!

Ringling is my middle name - and it's a family name that goes back many generations. Yes, it originates from the Ringling Brothers Circus. The five Ringling brothers that started the circus are my great-great-great uncles on my mom's side of the family. My family are actually descendants of the Ringling brothers' little sister, Ida. Since there had been a couple generations of girls, the Ringling name hadn't been used in quite some time. But, my generation resurrected it and used it twice (I have a cousin who also has it) - and my older brother's son has it as well. Needless to say, we're using the name like it's going out of style... which it did about 100 years ago.

With its origins dating back to Hanover, Germany and Ostheim, France in the early 19th century, the Ringling name has gone through a couple spelling (and pronunciation) variations to become what it has today. I won't bore you with all the details - but  you can imagine how the name sounded back in pre-WWI Germany with a couple more consonants and an Umlaut or two tossed in there for good, phlegmy measure.

Today, everyone knows what the Ringling name symbolizes. Any time someone sees my middle name or I have to spell it out to someone over the phone, there's always a pause on the other end while it registers. Not because they have to think about how to say it or spell it, but because they're wondering "Hey, I bet this guy's related to the circus..." That collective pause is a silent tribute to the blood, sweat and tears my ancestors shed to create the largest circus empire in the world.

From my days as a little boy, my mom always told me that my middle name was one to really be proud of. Not just because it was rare (I mean come on, who's going to use a name like that if they're not related to the circus?), but because of all the history and notoriety it conjured when spoken. Followers might also recall this post when we took Alli to see her first circus. It was a day that I'll never forget as long as I live, and I can't wait to take Aiden to his first circus as well. The pride I felt that day was deeply rooted in the years of pride I had growing up as child who was actually related to the originators of the circus everyone knew.

Aiden should be proud of it for lots of reasons. Not just because it's also his father's middle name, but because there aren't many other people in the world (all 7+ billion of them) who can point to their middle name and say "Yeah, I'm related." Even though the circus is no longer in the family, I hope both Aiden and Alli will someday comprehend what their ancestors created from nothing. Not so they can ride their ancestors coat-tails - but so they understand that if they have a dream worth pursuing, they should stop at nothing to obtain it. And much like the Ringling brothers when they first started out, they'll always have their family's support - even if it is to run off and join the circus.

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