What’s in a name? In some cultures it’s the first word you can claim to be your own. Some parents choose a name with a particular meaning behind it, others choose based on tradition, while others choose on a whim. Regardless of how your name came to be, it has become linked to your identity.
Upon meeting others for the first time our names are the first thing we exchange. Well we actually exchange looks first thing but verbally we start with our name. However the name given differs per culture, where in many western cultures we exchange our first name there are other countries where surnames are exchanged.
This simple discrepancy actually reveals how identity is linked to a person’s name. In the past a name was consider one’s most intimate possession and it was not commonly shared.
Why you may wonder? What’s in a name?
Well, in some cultures it was thought that a demon could take possession of a child’s spirit if it came to know the child’s name. In other cultures it is believed that repeated calling of someone’s name by a person not connected by family ties, has a negative effect on that person’s persona.
Now you know the origin of Rumpelstiltskin losing his power and why in certain cultures people introduce themselves using their family names. Sound strange? Well take a moment and think on how much of us have nick/pet names or are called by shortened names.
Could it be that instinctively we know that there might be something to the old thoughts and myths.
Many a parent will tell you that choosing a name for their child was something they did with care. As choosing a name in some instances was done by the meaning a name carried which can then be linked to choosing a personality or character trait, in other words choosing the child’s identity. Some children might get what I call legacy names. The name of a parent, grandparent or loved family member. In these cases it is about maintaining a family identity or if it is due to a positive memory/trait of the original bearer, the identity of the person. And then we have the creation of a new name, in many cases it is because the parents wanted the child to have it’s own identity.
In some cultures a child doesn’t receive a name upon birth and is named when it’s older. What about those who have multiple names? Is it that they have more traits than those who only have one? With all the thought that goes into bestowing a name. Can the shortening of a person name be seen as a form of disrespect? Or is it more a form of protection? Or a from of endearment?
What’s in a name?
As a person’s name is linked to his identity can we say that by calling a person by anything else than their name is akin to denying a part of their identity. Some of us give others a short/easy name to accommodate the other but are we then maybe weakening our own identity?
Just as names can say a lot about us the way we use them also has impact. Did you know that something as simple as including your middle initial can increase someone’s perception of your intellect or status? Or that having others refer to you by your last name makes you seem important? Or that introducing yourself with or without your last name has an effect on how the other perceives you in that moment?
One thing is clear your name carries power and it is up to you how you wield it!