Thursday, September 9, 2010

Names ... and the importance of Naming things ...

I was reading a blog the other day when the author reminded me of a poem I read quite a few years ago now, on a continent way across the Pacific Ocean. It was ‘The Invitation’ by Oriah Mountain Dreamer and was all the rage at the time for fast-tracking a romance from the ‘getting to know you’ phase to ‘wild and satisfying sex’, sometimes in the span of a single night. This was in the days before the internet and you actually had to go out to dances and other communal gathering places for the purposes of getting laid.

It was also the most profound piece of writing I’ve ever read.

Anyway, back to the blog ... the author stated that he valued the poem in spite of it being written by some with such an outré name.

That got me to thinking of the importance we give names, and to the naming of things, ourselves, children, cats and dogs, inanimate objects. Who among us hasn’t given their favourite inanimate object (computer, car, motorbike, screwdriver) a name?

Why? Because names help us personalise a world that is increasingly impersonal. It helps demystify the unknowable so that even though its still unknowable, we can still have a personal and workable relationship with it.

Then there’s that ‘first impression’ thing. One version of a first impression is visual, what someone/thing looks like (how we interpret and judge what we are looking at is a whole ‘nuther kettle of kittens) Another version of a first impression happens when we haven’t yet met the person in real life, but see their name, like an author perhaps, and built a whole image around our interpretation of it. How often have you said, “But she doesn’t look like a Millicent.” (A whole ‘nuther ‘nuther kettle full) Getting the name just right is a multi-billion dollar business; ask any advertising executive!

The blog writer had a preconceived set of notions of what a woman poets name should be and I guess Oriah didn’t fit the bill. When he took a second look though, he found a gem.

So, when Billy Shakespeare asked us to ponder ...

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet”

Romeo and Juliet (Act 2, scene 2)

.. we can truthfully answer ...

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Hamlet Act 1, scene 5

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