What’s in a name? Everything???
Arundhati Banerji, Consulting Editor - DTDIY | Issue Date - 03/02/2012
Go to Page Number - 1 2
Shakespeare once asked, ‘What’s in a name?’ However, ignoring the old bard, we still went ahead and with hopeful pride, named our son ‘Zeus Agastya Krishna’, a.k.a. ZAK. Zak is seven months old now and we have already begun hitching him to our hopes, wishes and prayers and most importantly, repeatedly reminding him that his name should reflect in his deeds. Zeus, in Greek mythology is both father and king of the gods, symbolising both strength and magnanimity. Agastya is the name of a great sage, one of the Saptarishis, as well as another name for Lord Shiva, representing both spiritual power and moral restraint. And finally, Krishna, our rock-star god who orchestrated every move in that great epic called ‘Mahabharata’… Phew! Our poor little boy has already been saddled with the weight of the world and ours expectations on his tiny shoulders!
Do names really matter? Can a name end up reflecting one’s personality? Does it influence how we behave or think about ourselves or how people perceive us? Choosing the name of our little boy was a challenging task, because to us, it was as important as helping him grow in the right direction. Research suggests that one’s name can indeed have a profound impact on a child’s psychology that stays well into his adulthood. My name for instance was quite uncommon in school and at that time I didn’t like it much. I still remember asking my mom to change it for I felt that even on a day when my clothes did not make me look fat and my hair was in place, I still felt I stood out like a sore thumb because of my name. But as I’ve grown into a relatively more confident individual who doesn’t mind standing out a little, I’ve also learnt to like my name. Or, I wonder, is it the other way round?
The following are some examples of ‘names’ foretelling the destiny of an individual.
‘Ashoka’ means painless or without sorrow. And try as he might, the all-conquering Ashoka couldn’t escape the power of his name. After the battle of Kalinga, far from feeling victorious and triumphant, the Mauryan emperor felt sick at the sight of lakhs of soldiers and horses and women and children, lying dead and the soul-churning moans of the dying. The conqueror gave up his sword and embraced Buddhism. He became kind and merciful, and even started showing mercy to convicted criminals by banning punishments like torture and death penalties. He practiced non-violence and dedicated his life to the service of peace and his people, winning hearts, thus delivering himself from sorrow, and becoming truly Ashoka..
‘Alexander’ means protector of men. And history will testify that Alexander, more than anything else, became the great warrior, the great conqueror and simply ‘The Great’, by just becoming a General and a King who was kind and generous and kept the interests of his troops and even the interests of his people, both at home and in the lands he conquered, above his own interests. Alexander, true to his name wanted to unite the word under one banner, for he wanted to protect, not pillage.
‘Saddam’ means powerful commander or one who confronts powerfully; and the most infamous Saddam of all, Saddam Hussein was born in a family of sheep-herders in Iraq and rose to become one of the most feared dictators of the 20th century, who was ruthless with his detractors and one of the few Arab leaders who defied the West until the very end.
Last but not the least, a young man enters Mumbai with star-lit dreams in his eyes and a burning passion in his heart and declares that one day he would own the city. And sure enough, Badshah Shahrukh Khan, the one who indeed has the face of a king, has been ruling Bollywood for nearly two decades now!
Plenty of such examples prove how much a name matters! On a lighter note let me talk of this controversial research from the State University of New York at Buffalo which found that people often choose a profession that matches their own names and cited examples of a cardiologist named Douglas Hart and an in-house lawyer named Sue Yoo amongst others. When Ms. Sue Yoo was asked if her name and her profession had a connection, she said she never had dreams of being a lawyer. But people she would meet when she was young, she recalls, would always say, “OMG! If that’s your name, you should be a lawyer.” Perhaps that helped her decide and choose a career in law.
Names, empirical research now suggests, shape our thoughts, our behaviour. For instance, calling a baby boy with a girly name might lead to behavioural problems later. For those in doubt, just check out the Johnny Cash single, A Boy Named Sue, which incidentally was inspired by real men with girlie names. Or take the traditional practice of naming the son after the father in some parts of the world. With a ‘Jr.’ added as a suffix, in some cases, may lead to an identity crisis and a sense of competition, or worse, being weighed down with comparisons with his own father. No wonder, even though as ill-fated as his father JFK, Kennedy Jr. didn’t choose the family profession of politics. Naming kids after a celebrity or ‘fad names’ often lose their charm after only a few years. Common and uncommon names have their own problems. Babies growing up with a common name may just perceive themselves as one-in-many and suffer an identity crisis too unless they are made to feel otherwise. In our office we have two Deepaks (would you believe it, name changed!), so everyone calls them D1 & D2.