Friday, January 2, 2009

Honor and Haven: Given Names

Last night I mentioned New Year's Eve conversation about books by Honor Moore and Haven Kimmel. I couldn't help but be struck by the significance of their "common" names. Sometimes it's good to look up the meanings of words, just to be reminded of them.

HONOR: ä-nər noun Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French onur, honur, from Latin honos, honor; 13th century
1 a: good name or public esteem: reputation b: a showing of usually merited respect : recognition pay honor to our founder
2: privilege
had the honor of joining the captain for dinner
3: a person of superior standing – now used especially as a title for a holder of high office
if Your Honor please
4: one whose worth brings respect or fame: credit
an honor to the profession
5: the center point of the upper half of an armorial escutcheon

6: an evidence or symbol of distinction: as a: an exalted title or rank b (1): badge , decoration (2): a ceremonial rite or observance
buried with full military honors c: an award in a contest or field of competition archaic: a gesture of deference: bow plural (1): an academic distinction conferred on a superior student (2): a course of study for superior students supplementing or replacing a regular course
7: chastity , purity fought fiercely for her honor and her life
8 a: a keen sense of ethical conduct: integrity
wouldn't do it as a matter of honor b: one's word given as a guarantee of performance on my honor, I will be there
9plural: social courtesies or civilities extended by a host
asked her to do the honors
10 a (1): an ace, king, queen, jack, or ten especially of the trump suit in bridge (2): the scoring value of honors held in bridge – usually used in plural b: the privilege of playing first from the tee in golf

honor, homage, reverence, deference mean respect and esteem shown to another. honor may apply to the recognition of one's right to great respect or to any expression of such recognition
the nomination is an honor. Homage adds the implication of accompanying praise paying homage to Shakespeare. Reverence implies profound respect mingled with love, devotion, or awe great reverence for my father. Deference implies a yielding or submitting to another's judgment or preference out of respect or reverence showed no deference to their elders. See in addition honesty

ˈhā-vən noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English hæfen; akin to Middle High German habene harbor, before 12th century 1: harbor , port 2: a place of safety: refuge 3: a place offering favorable opportunities or conditions a haven for artists — haven transitive verb

These strike me as remarkable names for the authors of these particular memoirs: Honor Moore wrote The Bishop's Daughter, about her father Paul Moore, who had a secret life as a gay (bisexual) man. Her book has resulted in controversy within her family (she is one of nine siblings), despite her care to point out that she "was very careful to tell only my story."

Haven Kimmel tells the story of her mother and other family members, recounting a childhood in small town Mooreland, Indiana that is not in apparent or obvious ways particularly supportive. It is described this way at Purity of Heart, a Haven Kimmel fan site:

Picking up where A Girl Named Zippy left off, Haven Kimmel crafts a tender portrait of her mother, a modestly heroic woman who took the odds that life gave her and somehow managed to win. We happily follow Zippy from one story to another, but we know this is really her mother’s book - the poignant tale of a strong woman who found a way to save herself and set a proud example for her daughter.

One book about a father, paying honor to the complexity of his life. Another about a mother, a haven for her otherwise elusive story.

I haven't yet read either book, but I'm sure both authors have thought about the meanings of their given names, and of the ways those names reverberate in relation to their writing.

You can hear an interview with Haven Kimmel, about She Got Up Off the Couch, here.


Jo said...

So good to have you back, elenabella! On to the New Year with you now! To celebrate, I'm going to make "Possibly the world's best salad" for dinner tonight.

Nor said...

Agreeing with Jo-- glad you're back. I am SO bummed to be missing Honor Moore when she reads here in February. A year ago I sat with her & her sister M. at the Lenfestey's annual solstice party (which didn't happen this year for the first time in forever-- so no Rbt Bly by the fire, etc.) and we talked about the Bishop;s Daughter-- amazing thing to write in opposition to some of your family. She's very brave. I would hate that position. I loved her book about her Grandmother (Blackbird) but have not read past the New Yorker article on this one yet. She and I were together when she bought that gorgeous strand of black pearls at the Walker! I think they are a beautiful signature for H. p.s. love the etymology!