“Oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling, Clementine! You are lost and gone forever, dreadful sorry, Clementine.”
If the chorus weren’t bad enough, the entire song chronicles the drowning of a girl with feet so big (ahem, size 9 is not that big, thank you very much) she has to wear herring boxes for shoes and ends up quickly forgotten by the ballad composer just after he kisses her little sister. Thankfully there is much more to endear the name Clementine to us, although the song is at least catchy.
I grew up hearing how my mom had wanted to name me Daisy and my dad, Clementine. I’m not sure how “Sarah” is a compromise between the two, but obviously neither of them got their way. We did end up naming a dog Daisy and a much beloved cat Clementine, which I suppose served as a consolation prize for both of them.
I loved “cat Clementine” dearly for nearly 17 years. She was the sweetest cat; I once decided I would take her to school for show and tell and promptly packed her away in my backpack for the next day. You would think a cat enclosed in such a small space would protest, but as I remember, Clementine just sweetly went along with it. Thankfully I let my parents in on my “plan,” and she was rescued from said backpack before suffocating to death. She died my first year out of college and remains to this day one of my very favorite pets.
But “human Clementine” isn’t really named after “cat Clementine” either. (Kirk and Cat Kirk, anyone?) I’ve thought several times about what my life would be like were I named Daisy or Clementine. After multiple readings of (and teaching) The Great Gatsby, I’m quite happy Daisy was vetoed by my dad. Clementine, however, I’ve continued to love despite the questionable associations with the folk song.
When David and I began to discuss girl names awhile back, I was shocked that he was on board with Clementine even making the short list, let alone taking the number one spot. He liked the name meaning (merciful) and that it was the feminine form of Clement, a missionary companion of Paul mentioned in Philippians 4:3 as well as one of the Apostolic Fathers.
Looking more into how “merciful” is used in the bible, I found that the word occurs almost exclusively with reference to God. Again and again Scripture reminds us of his mercy and grace. Yahweh describes himself to Moses as “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6). At least three times the Psalms repeat this exact description. James reminds his hearers “how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11). Once again, in the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus reminds us of his Father’s mercy, but he goes on to turn the tables on us. “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). I love that Clementine’s name means merciful, and I hope she will strive to be an imitator of God as the dearly loved child she is (Ephesians 5:1).
Aree (pronounced like Marie without the M) is a family name. My grandmother was Evelyn Aree, and my mother, Lynn Aree. My mom initially had wanted it to be my middle name as well, but Sarah Aree Reed doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. After Clementine was born I found out the name goes even further back to my great-great-grandmother, Hattie Aree. Most name sites either don’t have an entry for it or list it as a boy name. It supposedly originates from the Hebrew word for lion (aryeh), which I find especially fitting for our little Clementine Aree. She is already quite comfortable exerting her power and dominance in her new family. 😉
Merciful lion. Little girl, I pray you will be bold and strong. Let it be a tempered strength, however, rooted in God’s mercy toward us that you will in turn reflect. Let these seemingly opposed qualities dwell in you seamlessly that you may be both a challenge and blessing to others in every encounter.
Thank you, Lord, for our Clementine Aree.