Well, as usual, that depends. At times our name precedes us in an introduction, making it responsible for the well-known first impression. So does “Winston” sound brainy or stuffy or staid? Does “Kami” sound sweet or flighty or superficial? I think you’ll agree, in many ways our names speak for us.
I hadn’t thought too much about the significance of my own name until 2004 when I read the popular “The Dogs of Babel” by Carolyn Parkhurst. The protagonist was a professor of linguistics, who considered his own name, and the names of others in some depth.
At that point, I was astonished to realize that I, who seek and uncover and appreciate anagrams with an unnatural zeal, had never contemplated the fact that my own name was an anagram for both hale and heal. What makes that particularly interesting is that I’ve never thought of myself as either robust or vigorous. I pursue good health, but I don’t hold myself up as either a pillar of womanly strength or the cover girl for “Ain’t I Something?” magazine.
The discovery of these lovely rearrangements gave me a new outlook. I actually began to consider myself in a somewhat different light. I decided to regard myself as the personification of ‘hale’, and the embodiment of ‘heal’. Yes, Leah suddenly was a new person. Gone was the specter of my childhood bouts of bronchitis, the plague of the overwhelming allergies and the decades-long series of shots that haunted me. Shingles at thirty-something? So what? Bygones, I tell you! Here is the new me! The healthy Leah!
You know what? That actually worked for a while. Talk about your mind-body connection! I lived it. Strong and sturdy, hale and hearty—the new Leah. I didn’t get sick, I didn’t catch colds, I didn’t yield to the flu or the disease of the month, whatever it might have been! Hooray for me—a healthy me!
Until. One day. In this little paradise I had created for myself, a new wrinkle (well, besides the crow’s feet) emerged. Digestive issues that over time blossomed into Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). For a while everything I ate created problems, which—DUH!—took all the joy out of eating. As a result, my name took on yet another new meaning. This time, not as an anagram, but as an acronym:
Leah now stands for Let’s Eat At Home.