What is in a name?

Generalizing

My topic for today: names.  All kinds of names, from people’s names like Tom, Dick, Jane, and so on, to more specific names, like “atom” and “dicotomy”.  What do names do?  Why were they invented at all?  Is there a purpose in naming things?  Or is it just something we do because we need comfort?  Names hold power, that is for sure.  When you name something, you give a previously inanimate object power.

I write my name on paper, it becomes my seal.  I can use it to sign checks, pay bills, and make purchases.  It also has credibility.  My name, in some inheritent way, takes power over my being.  Squiggles on paper could just as easily make a kidney go to a willing recipient.

A name is also binding.  Concrete and final in some awful ways.  When you use a racial slur or derogative, you are binding your name to an awful act.  Then, you in turn may be held by another name, which discredits your very own.  Perhaps such names should just be forgotten.

On the flip side, there are names that are etched forever in our memories and feelings.  People that have made a difference by walking on the moon, or soldiers who have laid down their lives for their country.  Even singers who bring a new tune to the world and make harmony with words.  Everybody would certainly like their names remembered, but very few will probably ever get this honor.

Maybe the power of names is fading.  Over time, the meaning of names has changed, and so our very need to name things has lessened.  Back in the times of early man, it would certainly have been beneficial to name things.  Naming a would be predator that wanted to eat you would come in handy for survival situations.  But also, names would have been a good way to communicate with others, and to forge social connections that would probably last a lifetime.

So, if names are really going the way of the dodo, the question becomes: what will replace it?  Will things go back to the way they were and images become the best way to relate ideas and thoughts?  Or, now that names for things diminished, will the objects we have named themselves diminish in importance?  Could this be leading to a less materalistic society?

Or (this is probably much more likely) we will only keep those names which aid in our everyday existence and revere names that were once grandiose and impossibly unimaginable?  Time will tell.

Thank you for reading!

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