Wednesday, August 8, 2018

What’s It All Mean? A study of words part 3 by Toi Thomas

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Have you ever heard someone say, “That’s a good strong name?” That's what I think when I hear the name, "George". My question is why? What makes a name good or bad? Does a person’s name affect who they are or the life they will live? Today, in part 3 of my series on words and their meanings, I’ll be focusing on the impressions, usually the first, people have when hearing someone’s name. See parts one and two of this series here.

The word of the day is "impression".

What kind of impression do you get when you hear the name Chester? How about Lolita, Jane, or Bob. Let’s take it a step further and consider names like Martha Stewart and Tyler Perry. Each of these names comes with an initial impression, but do these impressions reflect the people carrying the names?

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Martha Stewart and Tyler Perry are celebrities who’ve turned their names into brands. When you hear these names, you automatically envision their brand, their world, their products. Does that mean that no one else can have these names or does it mean that anyone else with these names are stuck trying to live up to expectations of domestic goddessness (yeah, I know that’s not a word) or cinematic comedic-gold?

Now, let’s consider the name Chester. I’ll admit that when I hear this name I think: sly, sleazy, trickster, and sometimes even nasty. But how fair is that assessment? Are all the Chester’s of the world guys you have to keep your eye on? Does Lolita have to be a vixen? Maybe she’s just petite and doesn’t like to be called Lola. And who says Jane is so plain? Oh, and “What about Bob?”… Lol, I couldn’t resist 😆. (It’s okay if you don’t get that reference.)

I think maybe the impressions we feel from hearing many names are based on stereotypes we’ve been exposed to for a large portion of our lives. Plus, depending on where you live in the world, the names and impressions may be completely different. Jesus (hey - suse) is a common Hispanic name, but many Anglo English-speaking people still seem a bit confused about this guy with the same name as the Christian savior.  Jesus and Jesus Cristo are not the same person.

Wikipedia
Even I recently made a comment that a relative was often referred to as Mr. Magoo, to associate him with the kindhearted, sometimes dimwitted, and legally blind cartoon character. For us, making this association was harmless, but I wonder how often do people allow these initial impressions and associations to cause harm? What if there is a man named Mr. Magoo out there who’s tired of people trying to help him cross the road because he’s perfectly able to do it all by himself.

Today’s post was recently inspired and a bit out of line with my plan for this series, but I think it still works. Next time I’ll be back to talking more about the complexities of the English language.

Can you think of any names that make an immediate impression, positive or negative, when you hear it?
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My next post in this series will be August 22 but come back on August 11 to see another animal story from Loki.

Interested in another faulty impression story? Read why Hercules’s life wasn’t all victory and praises at: Hercules: Hero and Victim. Part 2
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Find out more about me, my work, and my inspiration at the following links:

Amazon | Goodreads The ToiBox of Words | YouTube | See a list of my other posts here.

#wordsmatter, #ILoveWords, #namesake