The name… Heber

A blog about my first name and it’s significance personally. 

As the first post of this site, I think it only fitting that I address a subject that has defined my life perhaps more than anything else. My name. This post will describe the origins of my name andthe ambitions it has led to with a small discussion on the effect of names around the world.

I’m not a boy named Sue, but a lad called Heber.

My father is a great lover of Irish Mythology and Gaeilge so upon my birth I was named Éibhear Finn or Heber as itis anglicised. The story I was raised on, to tell the thousands of people I have met commenting on the rarity of my name was of its Irish Lineage. Éber Finn[1]was a high king of Ireland from who reigned from 1700BC according to the Annals of the Four Masters.[2] He was one of the three sons of Míl Espáine who began the Milesian line within Ireland. He once ruled the southern half of Ireland until he grew discontented. So he waged war against his brother Érimón at the battle of Airgetros and was slain.

Though most ofthose around the world who share my name (including places), take it from the ancestor of the Israelites “Eber”. He was the great-grandson of Noah’s sonShem. Notably, he opposed the building of the tower of Babel, so his family retained the original human language Hebrew.

Heber from Luke 3:35, in the New Testament is the grandson of Asher. Though the two are often confused with one another.

Writing this, it occurs to me that I have rarely questioned the story that I was told as to the origins of my own name. Perhaps partially from not questioning my own father’s narrative of events as a child, I have never had strong incentive tolearn more until this post.

Growing up, my name was regularly misspelt or misread in some of the most awkward situations. From bureacrauts mispronouncing it or newspapers finding a curious need to add an “R” for “Herber”.  I am generally the first and last “Heber” most people will meet in their lives. So the last few years I have found the best way of describing the correct pronunciation of my as the following. Phoneticallythe most accurate.. though I endevour to avoid the use of this comparison atall costs.

The human mind has a curious ability to ignore different sounds with one’s vicinity until it something you instincitvely look for.. like your name: is uttered. Not having a name like John, Patrick, Joe etc I’ve not had the frequent displeasure about turning my neck around in the middle of a street to find a case of mistaken identity. Inschool one or twice, I mistook the sound of the girls’ name Émer as my own during roll call.

Aside from not being able to buy a mug or fridge magnet with my name on it, the main problem was highly creative childhood name calling. Writing this as an adult, my mind has largely brushed over the specifics of the nicknames I had in lieu of my name over the years.

They say that the name parents give their child is one of the most defining things parents can to determine the life of a child. That being said, there is no (strictly) scientifically verifiable evidence for that anecdotal theory. This article by the BBC did look at the issue in greater depth citing somelong term studies done on the issue. Noting the trend for more unusual names asa possible indicator of growing narcisism within society. The research cited does note a racial element of discrimination at play within hiring processes at least within the United States. Yet unusual names can be said to indicate theparents’ value judgement on the idea of ‘standing out’. Further research on the issue reflects the trend of parent’s idea ofthe ‘right name for the right person’. Meaning that in a world of over seven billion it, behoves savvy parents to create a lifelong predisposition for the child to be… different.

Yet this discussion is thus far, a western-centric kind of one. For instance within Korea, about one in five people share the surname Kim as their surname. Similarly, within China, a country that uses Kanji for their written languages, there are only approximately 6,000 different surnames. Japan hasin the region of 138,000 surnames. While the UK has in the region of 200,000 surnames, it stands to reason that there should be a finite number of names according to linguistic and cultural mores. Occasionally one might hear of a court banning parents from naming their children names like“Metallica”, “Television” or “@”. Names that, by any reasonable understandingof school yard life would mean a degree of… challenge.

Still it is a debate that is on going and research will continue. Concerning something as personal as one’s name there is little scope of creating ‘a control’ group within a study as so many socio-economic come into play to during a person’s life.

To reiterate, this article’s purpose is to address and describe my own name’s impact on my life thus far. As I have not had an experience akin to the film “Being John Malkovich”, I lack anis adequate perspective to judge its impact beyond my subjective account.

Yet there is a lot to gain from particular names in certain contexts undeniably. In political elections, research has found an inherent advantage to having one’s name closer to the start of the alphabet. This idea is known as the “Bradley effect” that posits that a candidate like “Mr Xander Zulu” would have a hard time campaigning against “ Mr Adam Agreeable”. At least within political elections there is a clear idea of whatsuccess might be determined by the individual: compared to a value judgement onone form of career being better than another in general. Yet despite theresearch of statisticians on the “Bradley effect”, nothing in life is entirelypredetermined. There are a myrid of other factors that always come into play. For Irish politics, not being (debatably) driven to the same level of individualesquepresidential’ style politics as in America, the “Bradley effect” is not often reported on as in America. Family political dynasties make the biggest impact on names in elections. It would certainly be an interesting area of research to quantify accurately.

Having such a unique name within such a small country personally, it has directly led to one particular life ambition: to meet a name sake. Dave Gorman the talented English comedian, had his first adventure travelling the world to find all of the other people who share his name. For a quick look do check out this video. He describes the full episode in short here. In essence, his experience compels me to follow in his footsteps. As soon as I have enough time and money for it all…

While I stand little chance of meeting my full namesake. The only other living Heber within Ireland that has come across my radar is a young Dublin photographer. Here he is trying out for one of the “best jobs in the world”. There are however other Éibhears in Ireland, though I have yet to meet any of them.  Eventually, I will meet him and the other people who share my first name across the world. Of particular note are the small towns that are called “Heber”. The largest ofwhich featured in this movie in the Mormon heartland of Utah, USA. I get a littlekick of surrealism out of images like this one. Though until I eventually go there, or to the others in Arizona, California, Arkansas I won’t be able to play up my name with the local ladies….

Oh and eh… no… the quest won’t be a manhunt so I could be the only one.

So to conclude this post, like many aspects of growing up, gaining self-respect and self-acceptance is one of those. I may be like a boy named Sue, though I’ve it even harder… I’m a ginger!


[1] The ancient spelling

John O’Donovan (ed. & trans.), Annala Rioghachta Éireann: Annals of the kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters, Dublin, 1848-1851, Vol. 1 pp. 25-35

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