Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What does your name mean?

If I had an FAQ section, this question would be #1 on the list. It's the question I get asked more than any other question at any given show, and lately I've found myself dreading it.

Which is strange, when you think about it. I mean, this is the name I chose for my business eight years ago. It's been the name of this blog for six years. It's on my business card. It's in my email signature. It's pretty much the first thing a person sees when they interact with my ceramics.

So why on earth would I dread explaining it?

Well. I'll tell you.

The name Two Cent Sparrow originates from the Hebrew Bible and Christian New Testament. Most specifically, it comes from this verse:

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.
Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. - Luke 12:6-7

I’m not religious, but I was at the time that I came up with this name, which is why I squirm and stammer whenever anyone asks me what it means. It no longer represents me. It's something I’ve outgrown. And if I were to answer the question truthfully, the answer would be long and complicated, not one I could sum up in a few sentences.

So I decided that the best thing to do was start over. I began brainstorming new names. I even bought a new domain.

And then I went to see Mad Max. (I promise, this is relevant.) I saw it twice in two days. And at the risk of spoiling the film, there’s a point just past the 2/3 mark where Max says to Furiosa (who has just escaped from a terrible thing) that it’s better to fix what’s broken than to run away. And that’s the theme of the film: reclamation. She has to go back and reclaim what she’s been running from.

I started thinking about what it means to go back. To turn around and claim the thing you want to leave behind.

I decided that that’s what I needed to do with Two Cent Sparrow.

So, I deconstructed it.

two | cent | sparrow

Lets talk about “cents” first:

The word cent means one one hundredth. In Canada, we've abolished the cent. It's so insignificant that we've decided it should no longer exist, so we took it out of circulation. The word translated as “cent” in the verse above would have originally meant the coinage that equaled 1/16 of a denarius, which was the daily wage for a day labourer, who was one of the lowest paid workers in this society.

On to “sparrow”:

At the time that Luke was written, sparrows were so worthless, two of them were sold for a penny (or 1/16 of a denarius) and the only reason you could get five of them for two pennies was because the fifth one was thrown in for free, to get you to buy more. So that fifth sparrow was, you might say, worthless. One more thing: because sparrows were so cheap, they were mainly bought by the very poor and were often the offerings made by the very poor.

So, when Luke is writing, sparrows are associated with poverty. And as I was doing my research, I realized that I had seen this in my own life, growing up. My grandmother has always been a firm believer in "taking care of the poor" and part of this always translated as feeding the creatures outside her window – birds especially, but squirrels and deer and stray dogs too. Anything with a beating heart, really. I think this comes from her own experience with poverty, but also her unshakeable faith in her religion, which tells her that this is her duty: taking care of those who have nothing.

Sparrows have even more personal meaning than this, though. Just before my grandfather died, my mother bought a bird feeder and often brought him over to her house to sit and watch the birds. Now that he's gone, she continues to watch them. Her birdhouses have increased tenfold, and when I visit we watch the birds together. They're a beautiful metaphor. They're a way of keeping Pa close.

I chose the name Two Cent Sparrow eight years ago, when I was twenty years old. At the time I had just dropped out of school - something that took a huge amount of courage. It meant going against the people who cared about me most. I was trusting myself, that I knew what was best for me, and it was this trust that allowed me to step away from what was comfortable and familiar – the approval and security of my family. I was doing what I needed to do. I needed to be free to choose the life I wanted to live and the person I wanted to be. And that’s still completely true today.

So. What does my name mean?

It means trusting myself. It means being brave. It means knowing where my roots are planted. It means seeing the inherent worth in everyone and everything around me.

That’s what Two Cent Sparrow means. 


  1. this is so beautiful. I've actually been super intrigued by your twitter handle the moment I saw it. I got the sense that there was something deeper behind it, and that you put a lot of thought into it, and now I'm wowed forever