Sections

Weather Forecast

Close
Advertisement

What's in a name?

Email News Alerts

Before young miss Capulet knew she was to marry, fake her own death, drive her husband to drink himself to his, commit suicide and end literature's lengthiest family feud within the week, she stood on her balcony, pondering the nature of names: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose/By another other name would smell as sweet."

Advertisement
Advertisement

But would it really?

What if roses were called dumpsters? It's difficult to imagine them smelling very sweet, and do you know why? Because of the strong association we have with the name "dumpster."

Some names carry immeasurable connotations, like Picasso, Ben Franklin, Pol Pot, Ke$ha, Spongebob; merely hearing the name makes you recall the legacy it left.

Other names, like Emma, Kathryn, Jake, Chris or Cassy, are so commonplace that they might not mean much at all...until you know someone that means much to you by one of them.

Sometimes I hope a name doesn't mean what it implies, like OK Tires or my brother's Pretty Good Joke Book, because who wants to buy tires from a shop that doesn't think their own product is worthy of "great" or "fabulous," or tell a joke that amounts to a polite chuckle and an abrupt change of subject?

On the other hand, we should probably head to Best Pets for all our pet care needs.

There are names that make me wonder if they're intended to shed some light on the subject at hand. Super America is a gas station and convenience store -- what might that signify concerning our country? Does naming a trendy clothing shop Vanity mean going there will only feed ours?

Other names fit so well they make me giggle and guess that they were planned to do so. Paynesville Chiropractic? Cease Funeral Home? Hammer Construction? My pal Cassy -- ordinary name, anything-but girl -- keeps a running list just for laughs.

There are names that don't appear to make any sense whatsoever. Does Wet Seal refer to a mammal or a type of wax, and why isn't the seal dry or damp or sopping or sodden? And what does any of that have to do with clothes, anyhow?

Same goes for band names. It doesn't get any sillier or more nonsensical than Bowling for Soup. When my group of middle school girls fell for their funny lyrics and energetic guitar plucking, we decided to call our maybe-someday-band Curling for Chowder.

And then there's my poor cat, a name connoisseur from having had so many of them. Since his early days as Sir Pounce-a-lot to a brief stint where Montana had him answering to Pencil Box, my antisocial male cat has been coined Biddy, a term for a gossipy old woman. Dad, however, maintains Shadow and Mom still calls him Kitty Cat.

My friend Morgan -- a name that might point to a girl, a guy or a horse -- and I were discussing movie titles and noted how a good name makes you want to rush to theaters while a bad one makes it seem skip-able. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Send it to the top of the queue! Leonardo Part Six? The Constant Gardener? Maybe they're terrific, but you wouldn't guess it by the title.

So what is in a name?

Used to describe, depict, discipline, distinguish, differentiate, designate, delegate and discriminate, names act as marking posts entwined with their actual entities, giving us something to remember by and refer to, regardless of whether or not they make sense.

But whether you're a Montague or a Capulet, names have power, and that's nothing to bite your thumb at.

Thressa Johnson graduated from Detroit Lakes High School and attends Hamline University in St. Paul.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement