Thursday, August 23, 2012


Names are the defining feature of an item. A person, a thing. Most people and names have mundane names, names that nobody thinks about. Yet sometimes, names are just enough to pull you in and make you turn around- for whatever reason.

I first started thinking about names after I read Esperanza's thoughts on names in House on Mango Street. While I'm probably going to stay childless throughout my life, I always swore that if I did name my kid something, it would be a distinct name and it would mean something. It's always seemed so odd to see parents floundering over their kids' names only to name them something mundane in the end (that often is shared by other classmates, of course). My kid would be Angelou or Honor or Rhett or Atticus or Triumph- something meaningful like that and something that sounds nice too that's pronounceable and not quite fodder for teasing. My kid would not be another Sara or a Sophie or a Jake in a class with three other kids with the same name as him. That just wouldn't happen for me. Those "normal" names would be distinctly middle names for me for sure (as in what the kid might call themselves if their name "embarrasses" them too much).

But, of course, names can extend to other things to- titles, objects and things like that. For example, I always felt that I failed in naming my blog. In my eagerness to start writing, I failed to adequately give this thing a name that really stuck. Only later did I think about a title that really stuck. Yet now I actually have a following (thanks, Jade!) and.... Changing the blog URL might cause a lot of confusion. Plus, I'm not entirely sure I feel like making another graphic. So in a way, I'm stuck.

Of course, it really is quite interesting to think about names and about what their purpose is. Names are identifiers, something that people and things are known as- a simple sound and set of letters that conjures their image. A title for a book, for example, might be enough to make you turn around and end up taking a second look at it. A child with an interesting name will stick out to a teacher and make them call them it. Names are so important in that aspect, which makes me even more amazed how two people can have the same names (I mean, shouldn't names for people and animals be like footprints? Or should they change with age based off of qualities that the person has- like what the Native Americans did? With each name acting almost like a Social Security number).

Another thing to consider is how names link back to language. They're another reminder of language's ability to convey a point, to convey an image. I suppose that we could always function as nameless people, calling out people by what they mean for us. Yet for some reason, human beings constantly need to name things, know things. And that's something incredible to think about. Instead of gesturing to a fork and calling it "that thing", we have called it a fork.

Names are what people call things. They are what people think of them as. And, when I think about it, names make me marvel at language all the more.
Of course, as readers, what do you think? Keep the blog URL or change it? Also, what do you think about names? 

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