“What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet”. – Juliet
Act II, Scene II Romeo and Juliet
Names: they seem to be significant, defining parts of every person’s identity. Someone without a name is seen to be forsaken, without a family, either really new (a baby) or really outdated and unimportant. People’s names hold status, power, societal value and are used when we associate with others. Names like Hitler and Stalin evoke anger, grief and hatred whereas, Jesus and Martin Luther King hold connotations of goodness and glory. But what’s in a name? Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet quote provokes an investigation into the philosophical notion of naming and it’s necessity in our lives.
My pet’s name is Milly: as in ‘fa-mily’. We named her about a few days after we got her, at night while the pup was playing with her new toys in front of a family photo. It’s a name that we use to call her to us, to talk about her and that has adapted to become part of her identity. Even the name of my blog, as you can find on my About AppleBelle page, has a significant meaning and reference to my identity as a human being. Let’s examine some aspects of our names: symbolism, changes and the significance of names.
Whether you get married, divorced, baptised, kinged, converted, get social media, become a singer, an author, a doctor… or simply just get sick of people calling you a certain title, changing our name is a significant process that implicates change in situation, belief, identity or relationship status.
As a mildly religious person, (with a name meaning Devoted to God ironically), I was baptised with use of my given name and chose a saint’s name at my confirmation. This name was uncustomary as it was a male’s rather than that of my own gender. However, Saint John of God held important significance to me as the patron of writers, printers, theologists and bookbinders: as they are the professions of my family. It’s my ‘church’ name, supposedly and is apparently the name of the saint I aim to model my behaviour and values on, drawing help from them. One thing I have noticed over my life however, is the insignificance names can develop over time. For example, this name is still vital to me but not the be all and end all of my existence as I have grown less religiously-orientated.
The institutes of marriage, PhDs and kingship, also relay that the alteration of a prefix title from Ms/Mr to Mrs/Mr, Dr., Lady/Lordship, Duke/Duchess or Queen/King, represents a change in status and purpose. In marriage for example, taking the surname of your partner and the prefix, demonstrates a unifying between two people in a unique relationship. The famous feud between the Montagues and Capulets in Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo & Juliet further displays that marriage and its’ symbolic name-changing has an enormous impact.
However, not all names have such importance; for example, nicknames, abbreviations, teasing titles and rap aliases.
So what’s in a name, then? It seems they hold loads of valuable information regarding the person they belong to…and at the same time, can be utterly ironic and unimportant.
Well, I think that’s it for my word quota! For more on naming nuisances and nuances, visit these posts: