What’s In a Name?

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Until the other day I forgot about a few of the interesting street names you can find around my town. Mohawk Ave, Chow Mein Lane, and Where Else Lane are just a few. And is it me, or does every city seem to have a Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd? It kind of got me thinking to how people name things. Not just streets but different object, places, even people. I once heard a story that my town’s name was determined by the flip of a coin.

When it comes to living things, I have always found it fascinating the number of ways something can be named. We have all the variations of an animal’s name, depending on the language (cat = gato), in addition to the specific (and latin based I believe) scientific name. For a while I wondered if it would be easier if everyone were to call things by their scientific name. At least we would understand what biological entity anyone was talking about, regardless of lingual differences. But then I realized the length in those names would get completely cumbersome. Can you imagine asking someone if they were allergic to canis lupus familiaris instead of simply saying dog?

And then there are the names given to people. I myself have a fairly common name, but the spelling is different than what is normally used. Then there are people named for song compositions, people given names that are actually two separate names mixed together, people named for seasons or parts of nature. Who determined the constitution of a normal name? Is Jennifer any better or worse than Morning Dove? And what about when people say “You look like a ____”? What does that actually mean? So all the other people in the world with my name can be lumped into a specific group based on our physical appearances? Sucks for me; my name is used for both genders.

Wow. I guess a lot can go through your mind when you see a different street sign. (I swear I didn’t try to make that rhyme.)


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