Love your blog and read it nearly every day! My husband and I have started having "when should we have children" talks and it looks like 2013 is the year! When I think of babies, I think of names, and thankfully we both love our family names and want to use honor names as often as possible.
But I have a question and would like your opinion because I am torn. When it comes to an honor name, should the name be use based on your (the parent's) personal experience with the person being honored or based on the actual personality? Let me be more specific - my grandfather's name was Everett and I have loved the name my whole life. Hubby likes it too. I have nothing but fond memories of my grandfather from when I was younger, though he was a bit more difficult in his old age the year before he died. I was his only granddaughter and he was always so good to me. However, I've since learned that he really wasn't that nice of a person - he drank a lot, went out "dancing till all hours," as my grandmother put it, and my family thinks he was verbally abusive to my grandmother, who was beyond a saint. She was the strongest woman I've ever known, and now I know why she had to be that strong.
I still love my grandfather and have amazing memories of fishing and playing baseball with him, but the more I learn about how he treated my grandmother and my father, I can't help but want to distance myself from him. I'm not too worried about hurting people feelings with the name - my father could care less what we name our hypothetical children - but do I really want to name my son after a terrible husband and father but a wonderful grandfather?
Thank you so much for any insight!
Interesting topic. I think if I were you I might start by doing a little more gentle investigation (keeping in mind the reliability of each source you ask). "Family thinks he was verbally abusive" is hard to interpret, and could vary hugely from "He thought she needed him to be in charge of her, the way even good men thought two or three generations ago, even though it seems appalling now" to "He called her a stupid worthless bitch if she under-salted the soup" to "Well, no one ever heard or saw anything, but we feel like it's the kind of thing he would have been capable of and we're a generation that expects our parents to be perfect in every way or else get blamed in therapy." To me, it's a good sign that your dad wouldn't care if you used the name: if he felt his dad was a truly terrible husband and terrible father who abused him and his mom, it seems like he would mind the idea of his grandson having that name.
Every single human being is a mix of good parts and bad parts, no exceptions. Your grandmother may have seemed like a saint, but she too had a set of normal human flaws, just as we all do---things she managed to keep the family from knowing about, or things that don't make good stories, or things you'll find out later. It sounds like the things you're finding about your grandfather fall within normal range: maybe drinking too much, maybe going out dancing when your grandmother would have preferred him not to (there's nothing wrong with dancing late at night per se), maybe not being entirely nice to everyone. If it hadn't been those things, it would have been other things: maybe instead he would have smoked, forgotten birthdays, been relentlessly critical of his daughter-in-law, and spent all weekend watching sports when your grandmother would have preferred him not to.
Or perhaps more investigation will reveal that your grandfather's own set of flaws WERE beyond the usual realm: maybe he persistently called your grandmother names, and told her it was her own fault he slept with other women every night he went out dancing. Maybe the things you find out will change the way you think of him: you'll feel the good parts of his personality you experienced can't possibly make up for your new knowledge of the bad parts.
And that's where I think the line naturally falls: I think that if someone's personality/behaviors are bad enough that you shouldn't use that person's name, that's the point at which it will happen naturally that you'll no longer WANT to use the name. It feels icky to come up with an example, but I think it'll be a useful exercise if we do it quickly and don't think about it too much: imagine if you'd always wanted to use the name of an beloved uncle, and then found out he was a pedophile who'd put a secret camera in your childhood bathroom. I don't think you'd be writing to me wondering if you should let that bother you, considering what happy childhood memories you had of him; you wouldn't even WANT to use the name anymore, no matter how many years you'd loved it.
This is why when you ask me about your grandfather's name, I suspect it means his flaws fell within normal range. It can be startling and upsetting to learn such things about people we love, but so far you haven't told me anything that makes me think it would be inappropriate to use his name.
If you're shying away from the name because you think it's not appropriate to honor a person who had flaws, I'd urge you to reconsider: otherwise, you'll rule out every single honor name. But if as you learn more about your grandfather's particular flaws, you find you want to distance yourself from him, then it would not be a kindness or an honor to give your son his name. Emmett, Evan, or Elliot would also be nice choices.