What’s In A Name?

“Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.”–John F. Kennedy 

My friend Jorge chuckled when the store clerk pronounced his name the way someone who is completely unaware of Spanish pronunciation. He gently corrected her by saying, “My name is pronounced Hor-hay.” Jorge is a popular name in Hispanic countries, also in Spain, Portugal, and elsewhere in Europe. Jorge translates from Spanish to English as George.

Jorge says he’s somewhat proud of his name because it’s a very old name that has variants in so many cultures. Such as in Russian there is Georgy, and Yuri as two examples. In Germany, there are Jörg, Jürgen, and Georg. Poles can name boys Jurek or Jerzy. In Holland there is Jurgen, Joeri, and Joris. In Italian there’s Giorgino. Just to name a few.

My friend asked where my name came from. I mentioned that Jay has an old history, but maybe not as old as Jorge. Some etymologists say that it goes back to the ancient Latin name “Gaius”. By the end of the Empire the diminutive form of Gaius was “Jay”. Jay is either a proper name or is used as a nickname for people named Jacob, Jeremy, James, John, and Jeffrey. The feminine form of Jay is Jaye. By the way, Gaius’ latin definition means “happy”.

Jorge then mentioned the family of birds that are jays. There are Eurasian jays, scrub jays, and blue jays.

“We are motivated by a keen desire for praise, and the better a man is the more he is inspired by glory. The very philosophers themselves, even in those books which they write in contempt of glory, inscribe their names.”–Marcus Tullius Cicero

Jorge said he is fascinated by names and how a name affects our lives. He once investigated one of the most infamous names of all time, Hitler. Jorge said that if his last name was Hitler, he would want to legally change it. He feels sorry for people today whose last name is Hitler. All it took was one despicably evil man to besmirch the family name. The only people who think the name is good, might be racists and neo-Nazis. Jorge doubts that there are very many currently living Hitlers who are white supremacists, though.

When we think of famous American leaders, the names Washington and Lincoln come immediately to mind. Washington has been honored by being the name of one of our states, our nation’s capital city, along with several other cities and counties. Washington is a traditional British surname, there are also many Washingtons in North America. The name Lincoln is probably just as auspicious. There are 18 cities in the world named “Lincoln” including the state capital of Nebraska. There are counties named after Lincoln. There are countless geographical and historical places named after the 16th President. Ford Motor Company’s luxury car make is the Lincoln.

“I was brought up in a family which valued natural history. Both my parents knew the names of all the British wildflowers, so as we went walking the country, I was constantly being exposed to a natural history sort of knowledge.”–Richard Dawkins

Of course, names are not limited to words that identify people or places. Names of objects, ideas, classifications, concepts, or things that exist only in the imagination have names. My dictionary defines name as “a word or combination of words that is designated to identify any object or object of thought”.

A name is a shorthand representation of the various things and concepts we know or can imagine. If I type the word “apple”, you understand what that means. If I type the name “New York City”, you understand that I’m referring to the large metropolitan city in the Northeastern part of the United States of America. In fact, I used names to describe the location of that city. When we hear or read the name “New York” we may involuntarily visualize skyscrapers and busy streets.

“I call everyone ‘Darling’ because I can’t remember their names.”–Zsa Zsa Gabor

Yes, we even have names for people, places, or things we don’t have names for. We might know someone who calls his or her friends and acquaintances, “pal”, “buddy”, “sweetheart”, or some other generalized label. If I can’t remember the name of any particular tool, or object, I use the names “thingamajig” or “what-chama-call-it”.

“Even as one and the same person is called by different names according to the different functions he performs, so also one and the same mind is called by the different names: mind, intellect, memory, and egoity, on account of the difference in the modes – and not because of any real difference.”–Hindu sage, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi

What more can be said about names?

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. “All of the full moons for the entire year are special in that they have particular names.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Contemplation, cultural highlights, philosophy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to What’s In A Name?

  1. Alien Resort says:

    Lincoln was in The Name Game.

  2. Doug says:

    Another Hispanic name that non-Spanish people have trouble with is “Jesus” I’ve heard them say, why would your parents name you after God? The correct pronunciation is Hay-Sus. Another fun one to hear is when a newcomer to the southwest tries to pronounce “El Pollo Esado” They botch it up as bad as they botch up my last name. El Pollo has good food.

    • swabby429 says:

      Ha ha. one of Jorge’s cousins is Jesus. So, I can truthfully say I have a friend in Jesus. BTW. Jesus gets asked about his name quite frequently. His parents named him in honor of the Biblical savior as a tribute because they are devout Roman Catholics. They hoped that he would grow up to emulate the religious figure. Jesus reminded me that in the RCC the Virgin Mary is also a primary figure of devotion. People often name their daughters Mary or Maria. It’s basically a cultural phenomenon. I’m guessing the naming of children Jesus, Joshua (another form of Jesus), Joseph, Mary, and the disciples like John, Luke, Mark, etc. are probably course-work in seminaries. There are a lot of rabbit holes to go down when it comes to names.

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