—an indie website by joe crawford since the nineties

On Names

I read Names too on the nose at the end of May and dropped Steve an email about the topic, a 2018 BBC article: Do our names push us towards certain jobs?.

A fascinating topic, that.

There’s an aphorism in recovery: “to name it is to tame it.” which this reminds me of, but is about identifying a feeling in words to gain control over the feeling. Perhaps human will is strengthened by having a thought concretized as a word.

If I was smarter at semiotics and philosophy I’d likely have more articulate thoughts on this. My first ex-wife was a philosophy major before earning a B.A. in linguistics, at best maybe some smarts in those areas rubbed off. And my second ex has more emotional intelligence and strength than probably any other human being I ever met, and know that relationship improved how well I think about human behavior and relationships.

But really, the takeaway might be: “names matter.” Nicknames, too. I remember a conversation with my father. I think I was a high school freshman at the time. The conversation was about a school friend. I referred to the friend as “shorty.” My dad asked if that’s what my friend preferred to be called. I said I didn’t know. I wish I could remember his words, but they summed up to the fact that a nickname like that might have an effect. Like much of my parents’ parenting, it was not prescriptive. He didn’t tell me to stop. He didn’t chastise me. He made me think—hard—about the effect of my words.

I did think about my words. I never called or referred to that friend as “shorty” again.

And still, I try to think about the words I write and speak.

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