Names are peculiar things.
I’ve often wondered about the time and effort people invest when selecting a name, either for themselves or for someone else. I think of the heartbreak, the deadpan joke, the favorite childhood Saturday morning cartoon, the hours of painful labor, and all the experiences that may have in some way influenced the name selected for you. Then I imagine, in all the micro-moments that make up your life, how has a name, uttered by someone else, made an impact on you?
To some people, names are an invariable part of their identity. They’re the anchor to which the bearers tether themselves in the turbulent sea that is life. These people consider their names to be the one feature that immortalizes them, and so they guard it as such.
To others, names are like accessories you put on and shed when convenient. They’re scantly important to the bearer and are used only for the benefit of the attendant audience. These people can go all their lives without caring what they call themselves and are content to simply just be.
I feel I fall in somewhere in the middle of the two kinds of people described above. Names are important to me, until they’re not. My given names are many and I love them all. They’re all very different names, from many very different languages, each seemingly qualitative of a particular personality, and yet, they’re all completely me. I cannot imagine a universe where I didn’t at some point or the other, bear the names I currently do. But, I bear no allegiance to any particular one. It’s easy for me to momentarily abandon a name and adopt another if not for any reason but my own amusement. It’s just… fun!
Names are nothing until they are given, uttered, and owned. I imagine a name has a certain ephemeral plasmic quality to it, until it is spoken and received, then it becomes a living breathing thing. Names are powerful in that they can make and break a person or a people. I believe this is because names are words that are constructed to hold a multitude of meaning. Names often come with a history, and even when they don’t, the life the bearer lives always ends up as a story built around the name. A name and the way it’s spoken, can convey so much, and at the same time, conceal.
Ah. The way a name is spoken…
Imagine, in desire:
To have your name whispered in a voice haggard with longing
To have your name wrapped in a groan at the height of ecstasy
To have your name mumbled in the dreamy aftermath of sex
Imagine, or remember, the effect on you.
Or, in conflict:
To have your name said plainly, with only a pinch of menace
To have your name screamed, staccato, in rage
To have your name said quietly, as though dipped in a bucket of remorse
Whatever the scenario, we’ve all experienced the satisfaction, the pain, or even the confusion, at not just our names being uttered at all, but by the way it is said, and by whom. Any meaning a name had in itself is only compounded when the name is uttered in a certain way.
A name is the first piece of the bridge we build between the people we meet and ourselves. And whether we realize it or not, a name isn’t just something we’re called, it’s something we live, even if just for a moment
The names we’re given and take as our own, whether for our whole lives or even for a fleeting moment, have made not just an impact on ourselves, but also on the people we live these names to. Sometimes, this impact is nothing more than a tiny dent, sometimes it’s something more.
So, I guess what I’m saying is, names are peculiar things.
For those who aren’t aware, I have a Medium blog I update once in a blue moon. ‘Nomenclature’ was written in June and posted on that blog, and I intend to put more posts like it on the Medium blog. If you love it, do follow me there as well.
As always, I wish you the two best things the world has to offer: peace and ice cream.