What’s in a name?

Many a thing to unearth.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” is a frequently referenced part of William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, in which Juliet seems to argue that it does not matter that Romeo is from her rival’s house of Montague, that is, that he is named “Montague.”

For a flower it can be true, but when it is referred to other things, persons etc. will it?

The lexicon gives the meaning of name as ‘a word or set of words by which a person or thing or place is known, addressed or referred or identified.

The synonyms can be many as a title, label, epithet etc.

A cognomen is a Latin and was the third name of a citizen of ancient Rome, Initially it was a nickname. When it landed up with heredity, it became Scipio, a Roman epithet. The male became Cornelius Scipio and female Cornelia, similar to Singh and Kaur. And other surnames as Reddy, Iyer, Patel , Naidu etc etc.

Sobriquet is a shortened version of a person’s given name. Just like calling Subramanian by Mani and if he is of short structure he becomes Mani kutty or kutty Mani, again like Gilbreth became Therblig in Time and Motion studies in Management. There are old timers in my village known by the multinational companies they worked. Just like Alembic Ananthan, Britannia Bharathan, Glaxo Ganesan, Calico Cheema, Pfizer Parameswar, Ranbaxy Ramesan, Sandoz Sundaram, Voltas Varadan, and Murphy Mahadevan and the list is endless. They enjoyed by that prefix embedded with their names as a service medal or decoration given by the defense rather ending their name as Iyer. Their place of origin and father’s name in capitals remained hidden forever in their school final certificate books.

Moniker is a shortest version if nickname like Johnson becomes J when he turns into a celebrity.

Then the intoxication by drinking alcohol infused another set of name exclusively on the Geographical aspect of growing wines.  Right from Bible it is there as wine of Samaria, Wine of Carmel wine of Jezebel. It came under Appellation.

When people became famous as said by Shakespeare ‘some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them’, the word celebrity, superstar, megastar, VIP, leading light, luminary, Mughal or mogul with some nickname as big fish, big shark, big wheel, big shot entered in the arena of christening.

The arrival of TV and the entertainment serials discovered a new two letter word DJ, a Disc Jockey which was earlier RJ or simply Radio Jockey. An announcer in an event.

We cannot forget the name of the great Amin Sayaani with his baritone voice who ruled as RJ for a long span from 1953 to 93 for the ever green Binaca Geeth Maalaa.

When some names are tongue twisters as Sundara Bhatadhri Vasudeva Raayar or a railway station by name Srikrishna varadacharyulu vaari pEtta, if it is reduced to either Raayar or Petta , it may lead to some intolerance as raayar is a position in the old time king’s court and petta  is a general term used for a dwelling place for a community. As the British could not find a suitable name for this station and code alphabets to identify, it remained as a baron station and finally got removed. Even the small platform is missing. This issue came up in renaming the streets and at one street everyone got fixed up like a cat trapped at a cull de sac. The name was ‘Cartman Street’. When some names are touched, the very name disappears along with its cherished legacy.

Cassius Marcellus Clay was a US ambassador to Russia for three US Presidents Lincoln, Andrew and Grant and was nicknamed as ‘Lion of White Hall’. He worked for the abolition of slavery.

Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr became a boxer by name Muhammad Ali when he embraced Islam.

Some names have a history and meaning just like the taxonomy of animal and plant kingdoms.

To know better about ‘what’s in a name’ we must go back to the biographical legacy of Carl Linnaeus, called as ‘Father of taxonomy’.

How Edson Arantes do Nascimento became “Pele’ the great Bazillion soccer player is something we must know.

What’s in a name can unearth treasures.


By Sundareswaran Date: 4th March 2017.  Source: Some Internet details.


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