What’s in a name, exactly? It’s incredible how many things can share a name. Are names arbitrary? Shakespeare famously says in one of Romeo’s lavishly cheesy entreaties to Juliet, “That which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet,” but like so many things in life, names take on meaning because we, as humans, put that meaning there.
This started out in my head as a poetry post, featuring Emily Dickinson, and look what happened (dammit, brain!)
Names have meaning, but from where? Some names harken back to old languages– Melissa comes ultimately from the Greek word melitta, or “bumble bee.” Christopher literally means “bearer/carrier of Christ,” also from Greek. Some names are synthesized, created new by parents (or so they hope), perhaps in search of something unique that their child can have that is theirs, and only theirs. What a gift to give a child; what a burden. Having a history to your name at least gives you something to lean on, and humans love to lean. We love to be a part of something. It’s when we’re unchained that we tend to come unhinged.
Why do we track the popularity of baby names? Seriously. They put this stuff in newspapers. Why, though? I’ve always found it weird that people would want to know how popular the name they’ve picked is. Do you want an Emily, or do you want an Orangejello? What’s better? What’s worse?
At least if you’re Orangejello, you begin your own legacy. You might not be a link in a chain; you might be something new, shiny, and interesting. At least you don’t have a billion people, and at least a dozen songs named after you.
Let’s do some Emily-legacy, because this started out with Dickinson.