Exploring the intricacy of names and how they affect us throughout life.
“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;”
-Willy the Bard
One day in art class when I was a high school junior, a friend and I pondered whether the color or the fruit first bore the title ‘orange’. Either way would make a lot of sense, we agreed, since both served as a good descriptive reference of the other. This happened long before search engines, so rather than just looking up the answer we just decided to rename the color, since that was primarily the context we were working in during art class. The incident reinvigorated my curiosity about how language and perceived reality interact.
The answer is that the fruit was called an orange first, by the way. And we renamed the color ‘vad’ because it sounded cool.
These interactions between language and perceived reality become even more apparent when we are working with proper titles. The act of naming things is essential to all types of human language. Before language we must have communicated through actions. As we evolved and began giving the subjects of these actions their own designations, we were no longer bound by the conscious framework of the verb. Through names and titles we were able to describe individuals or elements of interactions. Yet these names and titles were often descriptive of the accomplishments or failures of the individual, or by their rank and reputation.
So historically the links between names and behaviors was probably almost always intentional, but as we have evolved and have different ways of assigning names, similar links sometimes persist in the most synchronistic of ways. The relationship between the word and the thing the word describes, in modern times, generally appears to us as a coincidence. But is it?
Could language have so obscured the fact that reality functions more like a verb than a noun that we have empowered proper nouns to shape our consciousness and reality? Are the essence of the word ‘rose’ and the thing ‘rose’ so inextricably tied together within the framework of our conscious reality that by any other name they would indeed smell quite differently?
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