Blogs: What’s in a Name?

Shakespeare said, “A rose by any other name will smell as sweet.” But will it?

Names are designating words by which we know and identify people, places, and things. John the son of John becomes John Johnson (I had an uncle by marriage named that). Names can indicate professions, like Carpenter, Baker, Smith, or Shepherd.

Some places are named for famous people, like the real towns of George, Washington, or Astoria, Oregon, for famous German-American founding entrepreneur, John Jacob Astor.

Since Norman French times in England My last name, Topliff, indicated a family living at the top of a Yorkshire cliff. I tease that it’s spelled more simply now because there erosion made the “c” fall over the edge.

Alexander the Great named thirteen cities for himself, though the one we know best today is Alexandria, Egypt.

Companies can be named for inventors, like the Ford Motor Company, or Smith and Wesson. Ships are sometimes named to honor people like the Queen Elizabeth the II, or the Santa Maria.

We may buy real estate and christen it Happy Acres or Retirement Bliss. People get inventive with pleasure craft names like Lazy Days, or Our Children’s Inheritance.

It’s a travesty that the name of Bethlehem Hospital in London long ago got contracted to “Bedlam” and now stands for the mentally ill people treated there. Similarly the word “gossip” came from “Gospel,” meaning “Good news,” though that’s seldom the case now.

There are real towns with names I’d love to explore, like Nowthen or Embarrass, MN, Coffee, MS, Chicken, AK, and many more. It’s a privilege to choose perfect names for children or pets. It’s even fun inventing names for characters and places in stories or books we write.

A friend once overhauled my car and warned me not to drive far because he couldn’t vouch for its reliability. It safely drive a thousand miles each way to a church convention and back, but I pranked him by phoning and saying I’d broken down in fictional, “Houndstooth, Kentucky.”

The names of people dearest to us often end up being our favorite names of all. Rose? Maybe no contest. Thorn? Probably a far different association.

Which names mean the most to you? What would you name your future vacation getaway or retirement haven?

“A rose by any other name will smell as sweet” . . . but I’m not sure it always does.

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