July 12th, 2011
As we all know by now, Natalie Portman and fiance Benjamin Millepied chose the name Aleph for their son. Aleph represents the space marker in the Hebrew alphabet or aleph bet, that takes on the breathy position of a glottal stop or pronunciation of the vowel adjacent to it in the word.
Jewish mysticism associates Aleph with air, a oneness with God, and infinity. In the sacred text Sefer Yetzirah, “Aleph is King over Breath, Formed Air in the universe, Temperate in the Year, and the Chest in the soul.” In Rabbinic Hebrew, the Bible begins with Bet, the second letter of the alphabet. To reward Aleph for “his” humility, he is given the task of starting The Ten Commandments.
In addition to the first letter of the alphabet, it also represents the number one. Both Natalie Portman’s father Avner and her grandfather Arthur‘s names begin with the aleph, and it perhaps honors both men without explicitly naming her son after a living relative (her father is living while her grandfather has passed). After reading more about Aleph, I’ve come to really respect the choice and expect my research only scratches the surface of this spiritual name. Natalie Portman is a Harvard graduate would not take a decision like this lightly, so while at first it may have seemed like a wacky celeb name, it’s actually one chosen from careful deliberation.
The week also brought us news of another much anticipated babe, the child of David and Victoria Beckham. They shocked us all when they chose zeitgeist sweetheart Harper as their daughter’s first name, but stuck to their convention of choosing the unconventional with they put Seven in the middle.
Despite being the fourth child, Seven is David Beckham’s lucky number. 7 was his Jersey when he played for English team Manchester United and the national team. Harper Seven was also born in the 7th hour on the 7th day (Sunday) in the 7th month and weighed 7 something pounds. It looks like it’s her lucky number too.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard Seven used as a name. Erykah Badu dubbed her son Seven way back in 1997, and as readers so astutely pointed out in the comments, Seven was George Costanza’s unborn child until a couple overheard him and “stole” the name. My generation will recall Six on Blossom, and Novogratz child and fifth son Five made is reality TV debut last year on Nine By Design.
I went to high school with a boy called “Cuatro” because he was the fourth in line to bear the name. Trey and Trip are also variations on this theme which sometimes wind up on the birth certificate. I’m partial to Sixtine (sic) and Octavian myself. In some languages Nina is the number nine and Una number one.
Do you think letters and numbers are the next wave in baby names? It’s just an extension of the word name trend, and has the capacity to dip into religious and cultural symbolism of the power of symbols, scientific and mathematical harmonies, and the history of language. I can see Brooklyn parents really digging this. Gone are the days when being “just a number” is construed as a bad thing.
Are there any letters or numbers you particularly would like to see on a child?