. . . my name is growing all the time, and I’ve lived a very long, long time; so my name is like a story. Real names tell you the story of things they belong to in my language . . . (from The Two Towers by JRR Tolkien)
So, I’m taking an Irish language class (yes, that means Irish Gaelic, the native language of Ireland, and no, it’s not a dead language and never has been, although English is the primary language spoken in Ireland courtesy of English colonization). This is something I’ve been looking forward to and a big part of why I came to school in Boston. And I’m loving my class! One of the things the professor had us in the first couple of weeks was translate our names from English, either by finding a word that means the same thing as our name or by finding a word that sounds similar. Well, my name is essentially contorted Irish anyway (Shanna is derived from Shannon and Shawna, both of which are Irish), so I pulled out my handy dandy fócal (that means dictionary) and look up a word that had the same sound as my name. What I found was the word sean (which is different from the name Seán–Irish is an inflected language so pronunciation matters–and is pronounced pretty much like my name with the a-sound in apple). Sean means “old.” So I slapped another n and an a on the word to make my name Seanna and then I translated my last name, Early. The great thing about having a last name that is actually a real word is that it makes things like this easy. So I looked up the word for Early, which is luath. So my name in Irish is Seanna ní Luath. It means “Old Early.” Please laugh about this with me.