Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Let us, for a moment, consider the name.

We all have them. Every culture uses names, be it independent of meaning, or based on one's actions. But we still have them. And our obsession with naming does not even just end with humans. We name just about everything, and have a desire to personify anything and everything with that name. We name things from pets to stuffed animals to instruments.

So what is a name? A few vowel sounds shaped by the mouth, with some clicks and hisses thrown in? Odd if one considers the weight that those sounds carry. We take our names from a very young age, and they become part of who we are. We respond to them attach and meaning to the names as we come to know the person they belong to, including oneself. Someone has a close friend who has a fairly common name who betrays them on a personal level. Suddenly, the one betrayed has a negative connotation of the name and will have a hard time liking anyone who has that name, regardless of their character. Also, someone has a nickname as a small child that is used, and then, as an adult they decide that that name has become a thing of the past, and then when someone uses it, the name is suddenly seen as a condescension from the other person.

So rarely do we redefine ourselves as a person, and even more rarely do we redefine our name. Why is it that it is so rare, even for the most rebellious of characters, to change their fundamental name? It seems that one's name is a tie to a past that they have come from, so why bother with it? Maybe the character of people changes so gradually that the identification of self goes hand in hand with the self-definition of name, thus rendering a change unnecessary.

In my life, I have in actuality, had three different names of usage. As a child I was 'Joey'. Didn't ask for it. Didn't mind it. To this day, I am still Joey to my friends’ parents who saw me grow up in the back yard. Then I was 'Joe'. Solid, simple, average. A good name. Then before my second year in college I decided to switch to 'Joseph'. In my eyes it was more professional. More official. A name I wanted as an old man. Problem with Joseph is that while many have it, most use 'Joe' as their used name, so introductions can be a little confusing. Also, so many know me as Joe, and over the past year I have come to have such a different concept of myself so that the name of Joe sounds to my ears younger and less defined. But I still use it. Most people I know know me as Joe, and call me such. My self-redefinition has changed what my identifying name is, and thus my name has changed.

So now we come to Pets. This is an odd one. Pets are also quite odd, in that we let animals roam our homes and we take care of them. In return they are cute most of the time, comfort us a little of the time, and are a hassle all of the time. We also train them to have names. The question that got me thinking about names in the first place was, 'Does my dog understand that his name is 'Linus'? Or does he just hear the syllables 'Eye-uhss'? Do we name our pets to have them beckoned at a command? Or do we name them to personify them as to have a higher relationship with our pets?

The most baffling of ideas involving names is that of naming inanimate objects. This, I have no explanation for. Why should we even consider calling our own television by name? Or the fan. Or the car. Naming it a name to identify it, such as artwork or buildings, makes very logical sense. Naming it so that we can call the computer 'Jane' (+100 points if you can get the reference there)? That's a whole different subject, which makes no sense to me.

I am no exception to the rule of naming inanimate objects as well. I have two trombones, one is 'Theodosius", named after the Roman Caesar, and "Frankenbone" because it has many different brands frankensteined into one trombone. I call them Ted and Frank respectively. If I spend to long away from one, I talk to it the next time I play it, asking how it's been and apologizing for not playing.

So why do we name things at all? Why bother with it. I think that if one doesn't have a name the sense of self is much more quickly lost, and is fundamental to our sanity, and we name non-human things in order to increase our comfort and familiarity with something. To increase its importance to our self and also to show dominion over it without seeing it without worth. If we see something that has no value and no name, we will much sooner discard it than if that same object has a name. It has become part of our self as part of where we came from.

This was all mostly a ramble of unthought out concepts I just threw together. I'd love to hear some feedback and counter arguments fro y'all.

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