Thursday, December 9, 2010

Why names?

Sometimes it seems weird that we have names, like, separate from words. I mean, some names are also words (e.g., Summer or April) (which are also times). But some names are just names, like Shania (don't tell me that means something, because I don't care). So who came up with this crap? Like why don't we follow the Dances with Wolves model? Who decided "Dwight" is a good thing to call someone?

I mean, man. Stuff is weird.

18 comments:

  1. http://www.behindthename.com/name/dwight

    don't all names mean something if you go back far enough? that behind the name site is pretty cool.

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  2. But that's not why WE name our kids these things. we just like the way they sound. they might as well be made up. and some of them are, I swear.

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  3. well sure, all words are made up at some point:)

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  4. But only some things seem like names. Like no one names their kid Cybongia.

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  5. i wouldn't have thought "merit" sounded like a name. until i met a dude named Merit.

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  6. I absolutely agree that, when choosing names that are not based on sentiment, people go with sound.

    And all those choices are based on native languages. For instance, a person who only speaks English is likely not going to name anything a word that begins with the letters "ng." We're all beholden to our specific phonetic profiles, so this is a conversation that could differ across languages.

    That said, do you think our choices have anything to do with our leanings toward other words? For example, I have an entire list of words/phrases that I like simply for their looks (i.e., akin, taut, bramble, lymph node) and others for their sounds (persnickety, garrulous, languid, pinch).

    Conversely, there are certain words that I do not like, but those are mainly due to lexicographical reasons, rather than any phonetic or visual preference. I won't list the words here because I really dislike them that much.

    Do you think there are neurolinguistic facets that stop us from tagging certain things with certain names, outside of sociolinguistic reasons?

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  7. Names are arbitrary and irrational. It's pointless to try to find a point of origin to naming. I can't quite tell you why I named my daughter after one of my best friends or why I nicknamed her after a Raymond Queneau novel. Nor can I tell you why her mother named her after her childhood doll.

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  8. You're as high as a college freshman right now, aren't you

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  9. After Frank Zappa named his kids Dweezil and Moon Unit, I'll believe anything.

    Years back, the Guinness Book of World Records had a listing of the longest person's name on record. It was a man (I forget where -- his last name looked German as far as I could tell) with 26 first names, one beginning with each letter of the alphabet, in alphabetical order, followed by his last name which was 595 letters long (and which I don't stand a chance of reproducing here), with "Sr." appended on the end. (So was there seriously a "Jr." with the same name?)

    The Guinness article said that at some point in recent years, the man had legally shortened his name to just the first and eighth of the 26 names (the A and H of the alphabet), and had shortened his last name to Wolfe 590. ("Wolfe" being the first five letters of his last name.) He kept the "Sr." on the end.

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  10. Carissa, interesting stuff! I think we've also inherited names from the same languages that went into forming English. I've always had a very soft spot for the name Annick, which you never see around here. I bet there is a book on this out there somewhere...

    Francois, and what is your daughter's name/nickname?

    Tricia, see label!!!

    Lyle, I used to love reading the GBOWR. Remember the guy with the longest nails?

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  11. Her name is Sitka Clare and I started calling her Zazie when I kept stumbling on the t and k of her first name.

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  12. Francois, my daughter's name is Zazi too.

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  13. This is doubly odd, because I clicked on your blog just now to check your name because I keep getting it wrong. I'm forever writing "Eliza" and then correcting it. Sometimes I write "Elisa" and then change it and then change it and then.

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  14. Clearly my name needs a mnemonic. When I was a kid someone told me that "friend" ends with "end" and I always remembered how to spell it. So just remember my name ends with "is a," as in, "Elisa is a _________" (brat, genius, whatever you think of me as) :)

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  15. My mnemonic for you is "French last name, French spelling, but ending with an a"

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  16. If I'd had a son he'd probably been called Ernesto . My daughter ,Holly, is named after the tree because it has mystical connections with both Christmas and Easter and so does she .
    My brother-in-law recently became a grandfather and the poor child was called ariah because her mother likes Maria Carey. In that side of our family the names get really weird . Talking to school teacher who had kids called Nike , Spikey, Jordan ( I wondered why the Kingdom was so popular ..duh !) it would seem to be a great idea to stick to some common names just for the sake of keeping teachers sane .I won't enlighten you as to what my many neices and nephews are called it's hard enough remembering their mother's names.

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  17. Nike, Spikey, and Jordan?! That's pretty great...

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