The Extreme Importance of Names
And in case you missed the title:
“If any one thing is universal, it is a name.”
~Pierre Le Rouzie
Every person, animal, object, place, and concept has a name, whether it’s formal or informal, whether it’s used by one person or known by many. It’s human nature to bestow labels to everything in order to understand the world and communicate understanding with others. Etymology is a fascinating subject within itself, and onomastics, the study of names, is truly an intriguing sub-topic.
Not only are names of people used to establish unique identities but they are also what connects us to families, regions, and cultures. Our history is riddled with tales about how having the ability to name someone or something gives you power and dominion over them. Names are often symbolic and metaphorical and sometimes so sacred and secret that they cannot be spoken or a part of someone is lost. When a group of people wish to dehumanize another group, stripping them of their names is often a way they choose to begin. The incredible significance of names should never be discounted.
I possess a longstanding interest in names, naming processes, name meanings, and studying why we feel the need to name things. As a writer, I agonize over the names of my characters and it’s also one of my most favorite parts of beginning a new story or novel. I’m not sure why others take names for granted and don’t seem to put much thought into naming their characters…or their children.
For some reason, many people have not placed profound importance on the process of naming their children. “Astronomical sums of time and money are spent choosing the best brand name for laundry detergents, yet when it comes to naming a child, we follow current trends, family traditions, the whims of our near and dear ones, or even less sound methods!” (The Name Book) Some of those inspirations can be just fine, but people should understand just how a name defines a person, not to mention how often the name they choose will be spoken over and over again throughout someone’s lifetime.
When it comes to characters, I don’t mind telling you that if I read the description of a book or movie with one more hero named Jack or heroine named Kate, I’m likely to not be interested in it, just because of the name. Those are fine names, indeed, but when a creator can’t be bothered enough to be creative with their character names, I can’t help but think their plots aren’t going to be that creative, either.
So what’s in a name? A whole heck of a lot. After all:
“A name can’t begin to encompass the sum of all her parts. But that’s the magic of names, isn’t it? That the complex, contradictory individuals we are can be called up complete and whole in another mind through the simple sorcery of a name.”
― Charles de Lint, Dreams Underfoot
Names are magic, there is no denying it, and amazingly powerful.
You might have noticed that Curionomastics is going through some changes…out of infancy, it’s now losing some teeth, growing thicker hair, and getting into everything! What’s in store for the blog next?
The Sunday Spotlights are getting scaled back a little and will now be posted every other Sunday. Broader name content will be posted on alternate Sundays, including short essays, articles, anecdotes, and tips. There will also be some scattered fun posts and a giveaway every season, so make sure to keep checking in so you don’t miss the first one this spring!