Saturday, August 16, 2008

So what's in a name?

What's in a name really? It's kind of funny this topic can about since I recently read an article about how people decide on naming their dogs. According to Prapawadee Jaroenrattanatarakoon, a female Thai weightlifter, this was part of the difference in her winning the gold medal in the 53kg weight division. By the way, I have absolutely no clue how you say that name. I don't even want to attempt it. If she changed her name to this, I don't even want to think about what it was before that.

I first heard from my father (I don't watch weightlifting) that she had gone to a fortune teller who told her to change her name. She did, and then she won. This article from the New York Times doesn't say much other than she gave some credit for her victory to the fortune teller.

This got me thinking about the importance of names. In our society, we name many things--our kids, our pets, different brands of products, some of us even name inanimate objects like cars, houses, etc. Often times when we name things, there is meaning behind it. Maybe for a child, the name has personal significance or for a pet, that name just fits their personality.

Besides just distinguishing ourselves from this or that person, names also give us a sense of identity. I know for me, I view my name as both a curse and blessing. It's a common Asian name, and according to facebook, there are over 500 people also with this name. However, I think some of them are more a play on words than the actual name itself.

According to baby name specialist, Maryanna Korwitts,
" Of all the name components, the FIRST NAME is used independently with greatest regularity. Consequently, the first name has the most significant influence on a person's life and personality. Almost from the moment of birth, the first name vibration begins impacting perceptions, traits and talents. With time, the underlying frequency or vibration of the first name plays a major role in establishing an individual's relationship patterns and communication style."

It makes me wonder about different people who I know with the same name and whether there are similarities in their personalities. I don't know if this holds true, and I'm too lazy to really think about it. Still, it's an interesting concept. This concept also makes me wonder how my personality might have been affected if I had an entirely different name.

Then I wonder about the names not only that we are given at birth but the nicknames and names we and others call us. Are they positive or negative? Do they affect us? Is it simply just a name? I think they can be any of these things depending on how we look at them. I think descriptors can also be looked at as informal names as well. I'm sure there have been times when we've (or some might say their eating disorder) called ourselves fat, maybe weak, pathetic, lazy, "a pig," etc. In the end, I think calling ourselves this just perpetuates the cycle of abuse. And the goal or at least I hope is that each of us can recover and give ourselves compassion. It's not always an easy thing to do, but maybe it starts out with a simple name we give ourselves. Perhaps, this is what helped with the Thai weight lifter win the gold medal. Maybe whatever her name was before was something meaningless and the new name somehow made her feel better, more confident, stronger.

Now, I don't think we should all go changing our first names, but I do think the names and descriptors we give ourselves can play an important role in how we view ourselves. It may sound incredibly cheesy, but maybe it's worth a try?


elizabeth said...

I have a very traditional name (elizabeth) and have always liked going by the full thing unless someone I love someone and then I like when they call me 'Lizzy.' A lot of random people have the tendency to call me 'liz' which I have never liked because every Elizabeth that goes by liz has always been, bitchy and stuck up at least to some degree. I don't know if it has anything to do with the name but I don't want to ever be percieved as those things so I try not to let people call me 'liz'. Funny, isn't it? This is a very interesting post and I've often wondered about similar things. My sister has an unusual name and happens to be a very unique interesting person... who knows.

Tiptoe said...

Elizabeth, I agree with you. Names can be important in how we perceive ourselves and others. It makes sense to me why you wouldn't want to be called "Liz." I'd really like to see more done with this and whether there are more correlations than we think. That and handwriting. That's another one I find interesting.