Librarian's Lobby
by Daniel D. Stuhlman
February 2004

Names and their Importance Part 1

For over 30 years I let the dream of getting a doctorate simmer in my thoughts. Finally I completed enough classes so that I could start a thesis. For six years I worked on the idea of examining the gifted personality in Tanakh.  I did research on the nature of giftedness and tried to relate the ideas to Biblical character. There was a long period that I did nothing.  When I started teaching graduate students, I realized that I could never get a full time appointment without a doctorate. I tried to revive my earlier ideas, but they were not related to my current teaching responsibilities. After examining what I have been thinking and writing about, I decided to write about names. Many people have written about names from a genealogical perspective.  There are many books of names to help parents name babies. But I could find no one examining the etymological and linguistic roots of Hebrew names as they relate to library catalogs.

If a person gets his or her doctorate in their mid 20's they would then turn the thesis into a book or series of articles. I am planning to use much of my research, writing, and experience from the past 30 years to prepare my thesis.Since I will be busy with the thesis research, I will publish some of the research and ideas in this monthly column. I hope that you will give me some feedback and ideas so that I can do better research and writing.


The mysteries of origins have never ceased to fascinate us. Origins are always important to understand the how and why of our existence. The idea that Hebrew was the original language and the only language comes from Genesis 11:1   ויהי כל-הארץ שפה אחת ודבורים אחדים.  (All the earth had the same language and words.)  Targum Yerushalmi on the verse says that this one language was בלשון קדושא . (in the holy language) This view was not only a Jewish point of view, but was widely held in the Christian world. In September 1797 a child of about 11 or 12 was seized by three sportsmen who saw him naked, gathering acorns and roots. The wild boy became know as Victor or the wild boy of Aveyron. There were some people who expected him to speak Hebrew. Victor was dirty, inarticulate and fought anyone who tried to help. His case became an experiment in learning language for his teacher, Dr. Jean-Marc-Gaspard. Victor could understand speech and identify speech sounds. He could respond to the sounds of movement, but not to a distant human voice. Dr. Itard tried to teach him vowels and later used a game to teach him written words. Victor learned to read a large number of words, but never grasped the skilled needed to read phrases or sentences. Despite gifted and talented teachers, the boy never learned language or other ways of society. Dr. Itard was convinced the child was performing to his limits of his intelligence and that limit was sub-normal.

Victor could make the sounds (phonemes) of language. His hearing was normal, but he had no examples of human speech. Phonemes are the smallest units of sound; morphemes are the smallest units of meaning. They are the building blocks of language, which is symbolic thought. The first sounds humans made were imitations of the sounds of nature. These grunts were the first morphemes. The descendants of those words are onomatopoeic words such as bang, swish, gong, gurgle in English and צלצל  גונג , גרגור, בקבוק,  in Hebrew.

Feral is the term for children apparently raised away from human contact. Since the 1600s, about 40 cases of feral children have become widely known and documented. The ones who were able to learn to speak were the one who had human contact before the age of two. The most recent case was a young boy, John Ssabunnya, who was reared by apes in the jungles of Uganda, living with a colony of African Green monkeys. John was born in the mid 1980s. At the age of two, three, or four, after witnessing his mother's murder by his own father, the boy ran away to the jungle. He was adopted by a local colony of African Green monkeys. The boy learned their mannerisms, became adept at climbing trees and lived on a diet of fruit, nuts, roots and berries for the next three or four years. When he was finally found in 1991 and cleaned up, he was recognized by local villagers. After several years of intense schooling he learned to speak and was able to tell his story.

These examples prove that hearing human sounds and language is required for the acquisition of language skills.The also explains why deaf child can never fully speak with the same intonation and fluency as hearing children. Deaf children have all the vocal abilities of hearing children, but the example of nuance, intonation and example are never present.

Power of Names

In Genesis 2:19-20 Adam gives all the beasts and birds names. In Genesis 3:20 Adam names his wife, חוה  Eve This was a power over the world that God granted Adam. The act of naming gives the namer a kind of magical power. Parents when they name a child choose a name that will fit the child. Adam named his wife, Hava, meaning life.

Even though I can not find a scientific experiment to prove this, a person is more sensitive to hearing his/her own name than any other word. I tried this experiment in a casual setting and it points to being true. People have stated that is seems to be true for them. In interviews with people with names that are also words (i.e. Yisrael or Barukh) they stated that when someone says a sound close to their names they listen to see if they are being called. One “Barukh” knew from the tone of voice the different between his name and the beginning word of a blessing.

Among the sources for names are names in nature (such as names based on animals), names containing God’s name (Daniel, Michael, Samuel), names from common words (Hannah, Dina, Abba) and names that are diminutives, derivatives, pet forms, or language transformations of other names (for example Danny comes from Daniel and Mary comes from Miriam.) In subsequent columns I will begin to classify and explain the sources of names.

Daniel D. Stuhlman is president of Stuhlman Management Consultants, Chicago, IL, a firm helping organizations turn data and information into knowledge. We are looking for new clients and opportunities. Visit our web site to learn more about knowledge management and what our firm can do for you. Previous issues of Librarian's Lobby can be found at:

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 ©2004 by Daniel D. Stuhlman. All rights reserved.
Last revised February 9, 2004