Editorial: What’s in a name?


What’s in a name?

Sometimes there’s meaning. The spectrum is as wide as naming a child after a dear friend, to naming them after a favorite character in a book.

Sometimes there’s memories. Different nicknames given by relatives and friends bring back former identities.

Nicknames create an undeniable sense of identity that can’t be found anywhere else.

The name you’re known by is a unique trait — it represents the truest “you” at whatever point in time someone meets you.

Names are the basic unit of your identity and personality, a label used to create strong representations of how we feel about someone. When we hear a name we recognize, we picture a visual template of people with similar names from our past.

Associations we make between people’s names and their personalities stick like glue. It’s difficult to tell what’s a greater influence: how calling someone’s new nickname influences their personality, or how a quirk in someone’s personality brings about a new nickname.

As we grow, old nicknames are phased out of our life. Each one is a time capsule, holding a special place in our hearts when we think of the person they represented.

The time Bobby took his first steps.

The time Robby fell off a bike.

That party where Rob drank a little too much.

The day Robert had his first child.

The year Bob scratched the last item off his bucket list.

The nickname someone calls you is indicative of when they met you. The crossover of nicknames at an event like a wedding sounds like a foreign language to whoever happens to be listening.

The power these names hold is strangely important. When parents yell our full names, we automatically know how much trouble we were about to be in.

The opposite end of the spectrum gets ridiculous. We hear about unlucky children named “Ab-Suh-Duh” or “Olive Garden” and feel bad for their parents’ decision.

It’s impossible to take names seriously when we can’t find any symbolic meaning in them. That’s why the time you spend at college is unique.

Take what you’ve learned from past identities and keep progressing. If you want, rebrand yourself however you see fit. Maybe you’ve always wanted to go by a new name, something you feel is a better fit for your personality.

What’s stopping you? Go for it.

Create a new image for yourself. Be the person you’ve always wanted to be.

After all, what’s in a name?

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1 Comment

  1. Robert Davenport on

    If you have a name you would like to use, order a pizza or some other food item and have it delivered (or pick it up) as your new favorite/distinctive name.

    Thanks for telling my true life story as a Robert etc. For my four years at Lehigh I was known as Bill to a intown student whom I saw occaisionaly around campus. He noticed in our Senior year Epitome that Bill was not my name. Are fake names easier to remember than real ones?

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