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Nomenclature anyone?

Names are interesting. Not just because they are of prime importance through your life, your very identity, and usually, out of your hands to choose, but also because they are so variegated.

Out of grammar learnt as a child, at least one thing does remain in mind – Proper Nouns don’t have prescribed spellings or meanings.

However, being what we are, not only do we name people on some basis, but going by the same logic, usually look for a meaning in names we encounter.

Hence, ‘Whoopi’ Goldberg immediately brings to mind the joy and surprise of the nominator.

Names usually carry a flavour of the mothertongue, and country, of not the likes and ambitions of the person naming you.

In India for one, names usually have a meaning, inspired by instances/ physiology/ Gods or any other thing. Rarely are people named after people – because then too the name actually means something. In most cases the words are inspired by elements as defined in Sankrit, and so on.

So, you will find names with meanings are fairly common in India, and many such similar countries (usually places which worship many Gods I have noticed, vis-à-vis prophet based religions) which sound incongruous in other languages, but are perfectly logical and beautiful in their own.

A common Indian male name is Gaurav, meaning ‘Pride’, as is Abhishek, loosely meaning ‘Crowning’. Alok, another common name means ‘cry of triumph’ and Deepak means ‘light (from a lamp)’ and so on. Imagining naming your son ‘Sky’ (Sunil), or King (Raja) or your  daughter Golden (Sonali), Education/ Knowledge (Vidya), Victorious (Vijaya) and so on.

The concepts themselves are beautiful, but the words seem incongruous in any other language.

Moslems have their own repertoire of names (apart from the commonest name in the World – Md.) which are beautiful, lyrical, exotic, and usually associated with meanings, but more often than not, chosen on the basis of prior use.

In Persian again, the names are different and though based on predecessors, the names are exotic sounding, and have a meaning associated.

Though in Christian world the names originate with references from lore and Bible, I am sure they have Latin and Greek precedents, which mean something somewhere down the line. However, as you move more and more away from the origin, it is the comfort and knowledge of the name that counts, more than the meaning. Bill from William, Bob from Robert, Liz from Elizabeth (I personally never understood this! It always reminds me of Lizards!). For instance, Sophists were people who preached their own brand of Philosophy in Ancient Greece, and the name Sophie itself I think originates from there.

Some names however, are very unusual, and mean something completely different till you know the meaning of the name. A name like Seth is a discord in places where the word Seth is associated with rich businessman. However, the name itself however denotes the child of Adam, closest to him in appearance.A nice name, but not till you find out about it. Till then, it is just an unusual name.

As you grow older and spend more time with people, you are bound to get judgemental. Thus it is that some names get associated in your mind with certain types of people. For example, a name like Rinki, is associated in my mind with the 3 Rinki’s I have known in my life – all three being my mother’s acquaintances, rich, spoilt, yet entertaining. Similarly, a name can also conjure up an image of a particularly endearing person known in the past, or a similarly obnoxious one, based upon the experience.

Unisex names on the other hand cause confusion, and though nice, they can be a lot of hassle during many registrations and other formalities (as can uncommon and unusual names). Ask some of my friends, and some colleagues! Amandeep is a girl in our Delhi office. Yet, there is perpetual confusion regarding her gender when it comes to a new department communicating!

To conclude this arbitrary rumination on names, nothing can sum up better than the following dialogue from Pulp Fiction:

(In taxi) Butch looks at her license

BUTCH:             ...Esmarelda Villalobos -- is that Mexican?

ESMARELDA:     The name is Spanish, but I'm Columbian.

BUTCH:               It's a very pretty name.

ESMARELDA:      It mean "Esmarelda of the wolves".

BUTCH:               That's one hell of a name you got there, sister.

ESMARELDA:     Thank you. And what is your name?

BUTCH:               Butch.

ESMARELDA:     Butch. What does it mean?

BUTCH:               I'm an American, our names don't mean shit.


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Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
24th May, 2007 15:47 (UTC)
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sashdude
25th May, 2007 03:56 (UTC)
great post
hey did we talk about this earlier. the pulpfiction bit sounded like deja vu..
Lets not forget the practice of naming children with a multidude of names in the south.. including names of forefathers gods and practically the whole village. :)
dippyblogs
25th May, 2007 11:12 (UTC)
Re: great post
pulp fiction i had repeated earlier, but no not discussed this with u.

yeah u mean Including village name!
(Anonymous)
25th May, 2007 05:27 (UTC)
Nice one JM. Esp as it is related to something we come across almost every waking hour of our lives.

One observation. I think "Alok" in Hindi means "to remove the darkness".
dippyblogs
25th May, 2007 11:10 (UTC)
apparently it means both

U commented after ages :)
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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Regurgitations of my mind. Specific, Vague, Memorable, Forgettable, Thoughtless, In-depth.

More variegated than your dreams or colours off a crystal. More than I can pen down. What I can, you can read.


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