“What’s In a Name?” to Quote Shakespeare.


Shakespeare wasn’t the only one with the question when he added it to his play, Romeo and Juliet. The quotes from the play pertaining to the question, “The name of a thing does not matter as much as the quality of the thing,” and “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” were not the only lines by Shakespeare.

So what’s in a name?

According to Shmoop:

We told you Juliet was smart. She’ll pretty much make herself believe anything if it means she and Romeo could be together. But she does have a point. The names that we call things are just randomly assigned by, well, us. 

But just because people gave something a name many centuries ago doesn’t mean that it is what it is. So why can’t we call a dog, a book? Or a book a dog, for that matter?

Names are subjective, it’s open to interpretation and perspective, so we shouldn’t read into them so much. And Juliet is right. Names are random. There is no reason a horse should be called that, is there? But the problem with this kind of reasoning is that over time, the names do mean something.

Imagine if you told your friend, “Oh, look at how loud that book is barking!” (when you really mean a dog), then he or she will think you’ve lost your marbles. Or, “Look how many pages that dog has!” (when you really mean a book). How does that make you sound? Names might not mean anything at first, but over time, they take on the meaning. And then that meaning sticks.

And that’s just with objects. It gets a whole different ball game with people. A name given to someone is really important to that persons’s identity. What’s the first thing you do when you meet someone new for the first time? You introduce yourself and tell them your name. Assuming you’re doing the right way of ice-breaking. But that’s because it’s your name, that’s what you’re called and it’s who you are.

Now, you could tell people something about yourself before saying your name, but we all know that’s not what people expect when you’re doing the introductions. You could think of another scenario, say you’re meeting a new colleague at your new job and you said, “Hi, I’m a book reader,” and your new colleague said, “Hi, I’m a noodle lover.” As cool as that would be, it would be kind of weird. Get where we’re coming from?

So the answer to my question of “what’s in a name?” is that it is a lot more than what people really think it is.

Which probably got you wondering, what the heck is going on here? Why is the blogger going around in circles about names?

At the risk of sounding like a philosophical buffoon, the reason why I ended up with this topic today was because of a conversation I shared with my husband two nights ago. We were driving back from the clinic (I’m still having the anxiety attacks despite having already resigned from the job) and I turned to ask him, “Why did you pick the name Nigel?” Yes, that’s his name but he wasn’t christened with it. He gave himself that name because people couldn’t pronounce his Chinese name. I have that problem too but mine’s on a not-so-sticky level.

And so began our conversation on what’s in a name, why he picked that (apparently the name Nigel means ‘black’ in Celtic language, and my husband loves the colour black — he has a lot of black t-shirts in the wardrobe) and what were the other names that could have suited his style and surname. Of course, at the end of the day, the name is just a name. But it did give my husband an identity. It’s his name, it’s what he’s known as to his friends (not so much to his family and relatives, however), and it is who he is.

By the time we got home, we ended up with a list of our favourite names. Since we weren’t thinking of having kids anytime soon, we might just bestow these names on our cats (or future cats since we already have two called Loki and Thor but neither actually respond to their names when called).

Here are a few of our favourite names:

  • Joseph
  • Xander
  • Patrick
  • Lucas
  • Jeffrey

What about you? What is or are your favourite name(s)?


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