Monday, 11 March 2013

What's In a Name?

The power of speech is well established in modern society.  Language can be used to manipulate situations, those that possess a larger vocabulary essentially have a larger arsenal to fire with so to speak.  Lately, I have been thinking a lot about this idea, that words are weapons in a sense.  Specifically, how we speak  to one another carries a lot of weight in the world.  To narrow it down even further, my thoughts have been about names, given names, nicknames, names that we call others both derisive and endearing.  Why is it that names hold so much weight and power?  When a name is hurled at you, either positive or negative, you are recieving a glimpse into the person's mind.  Often, insults are played off by the delivering party with cursory comments such as "I didn't mean anything by it", but in reality, the words wouldn't be in your mind to begin with if there wasn't some intent behind them.  It is quite startling how frequently the topic of names comes up in every day life, in such a wide variety of contexts.

My mom and my sister were up for an overnight visit last week, and while they were here the topic of names came up a few times.  My sister's name is Paulette, which I think is a very nice name.  It is one that most people will have heard of, it's easy enough to spell, but when you look it up in any database's you will realize how rarely it is actually used.  My mom was telling us how she always gets a kick out of Paulette's reaction to meeting other people with her name.  It is infrequent, but when she goes to the hospital in Quesnel she will see the nurse there named Paulette.  As mom tells the story, the woman has been there since time began, and is in her seventies.  Paulette first met the other Paulette when she was a child, now she is 31 (Not to worry my sister is happy to share her age with everyone).  My sister loves this lady.  It may have something to do with her being very friendly and helpful as she is a nurse and they have a knack for that kind of thing, but it mostly comes down to their shared name and the common bond it seems to create.  My sister has also taken to lighting up when someone has the same name as my mom.  It's interesting, because this facination with names is something that my sister and I share in common.  I am always curious about names, where they came from, how they are spelled and the like.

We, being Asher, my mom, my sister and I all went to meet my brother and his girlfriend at Tim Horton's to visit.  My brother and his girlfriend have a baby on the way in July and the discussion turned to baby names.  Not surprisingly, baby's mom (not sure she wants her name out there so I'm going to play it safe), has had some names picked out for years as many females are apt to do.  She announced that if it's a girl she wants the name to be Elizabeth.  I could tell Ian didn't like the name, and I provided support by agreeing, it wasn't a name that I liked.  I regretted this afterwards, as I really should play no part at all in the naming of your baby Ian.  I hope the two of you choose a name for your baby that you both like after having a lot of discussions about it.  My obsession with names aside, once the baby arrives, the special bond between parents and baby and the overwhelming love that you will have for baby takes precedence over the name you choose.  Sheila and I both feel like "Asher" suits our little guy perfectly, but I have a feeling we would say that about any name we had gone with.

At Asher's favorite place these days, the Strong Start class at Malaspina, one of his little friends goes by the name of Princess.  She is just shy of 2 years old, has blonde hair, with big blue eyes, the type that seem to follow you as she observes you.  She is very cute, and the name Princess just seems perfect for her.  It's a unique name, and due to my curious mind, I had been wondering for weeks about it.  She comes to the program with her nanny, but I didn't want to offend by asking about the origins of the name.  I was signing Asher in one morning and noticed that she had been signed in as "Aaralyn/Princess".  So, as we helped the kids I brought up the name thing, and as it turns out, Princess became Princess by simply acting like a Princess.  Her nanny had taken to calling her that because of her demeanor and it stuck.  There is nothing wrong with her given name but Princess just suits her perfectly.  Normally, I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to given names, but a little girl lucky enough to have a very nice given name and a perfectly suited nickname is a lucky girl indeed.

At work the other day over coffee myself and a co-worker were discussing what led us to working in the field that we do.  As it turns out, we were both the recipients of bullying and intimidation in our younger days.  My co-worker is more middle-aged then I, and it seems the treatment he recieved was much harsher.  From what I can see, he overcame this and became a caring, well-rounded person.  This had me wondering though, perhaps my obsession with names leads back to my time being bullied in high school.  I've experienced the power of name-calling first hand.  While my work can be dull at times, the position of support I can provide for the guys who work with is fulfilling. 

High school really is the home base of the personal name calling type of insult.  It has been years since I can recall being the target of a personal attack.  At University I was taken aback initially by the mostly accepting culture where those from such a wide variety of backgrounds can co-exist peacefully.  The default attitude went from prejudging those who were different to more of a curiousity.  When I met someone from a different background I always wanted to know more about them.  Be it another culture or socio-economic background or otherwise, I didn't have a predetermined outlook on what that person would be like.  Often, I wonder if I am too curious, and too open with others.  Maybe to the point of being annoying.  In the end, I can't do a whole lot to change that.  It's the way I am.

Names are a large part of life.  My focus of today's writing was largely on names of people, but all things we come across in life have been named, and often these names that things or people have been given influence the way we look at them.  Whether it be the name of a band, or a television show or movie, we are likely to draw conclusions about the content or style of something based on the name that they have.  Self-given names are usually less telling, but if something or someone has had a name bestowed on them by others, say Princess for instance, you are likely to get more of an idea of that person's nature or that band's style.

What ultimately prompted me to write this content was a comment a friend gave me about my previous series of posts.  Having my material called boring shouldn't shock me, as people do have varying tastes.  Having my content called boring publicly was a bit more surprising.  While I know the comment wasn't meant as a personal attack, I initially took it that way.  My blog, being that the content comes from my mind, is an extension of me in a way.  My blog being insulted, felt like an attack on my person.  I know that I am sensitive to "put downs", but it was very reassuring that another friend then defended my content.  It goes without saying that those that are bored by this blog need not read it, but things aren't always that simple.  I want people to speak their mind just as I do, even though the results may not be pleasant or heartwarming.  Ultimately I want to thank both guys for being honest and truthful, not to mention that the exchange spawned another post boring, intriguing or otherwise.

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