The word "name" has many denotative meanings. One is a word by which a person, place, or thing is known. Another is a descriptive word or title. And then there’s reputation, good or bad. Not only does the word "name" have many different meanings, but also names themselves have different meanings. I believe that a name is that person or thing and a description of the person’s or thing’s personality and being.
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There are many objects that everyone knows by the same name, such as a piece of paper. Everyone who speaks the English language knows it as paper. I’ve never seen anyone look at a sheet of paper and call it a marker or scissors. This is because we are taught since birth to call certain objects by certain names. Also as we grow, we learn about new objects and their names. By the time we mature, we expect everyone we communicate with to know these items by the same names as we know them. Of course, there are the effects of the slang and the lingo of the region or time that we must adapt to and/or learn. However, no matter what the circumstances or situation, a piece of paper will always be a piece of paper.
Names are also a description of a person or thing. Native Americans practiced this ritual of naming people with a name that described them, such as Green Cloud, Running Wolf, and She Black of Heart. According to Louise Erdrich in her article "The Names of Women," these names were later transformed by the pilgrims into names such as Catherine and Marie. Even in today’s society, people can tell a lot by a person’s name. For example, the name Ernest is not very popular now and is what Erdrich would call a "bad name." She claims that just by hearing the name you can tell that Ernest is either a very strong, outspoken person or very shy. This is because we expect that with a "bad name," Ernest has to deal with ridicule all his life, which meant he had to either stand up for himself or try to ignore it. By standing up for himself, he would build himself into a strong, outspoken person; however, by attempting to ignore it, he would grow up to be weak and shy.
Names mean a lot of different things to different people, and our society and language forces us to depend on names. Names are what we know a person or item as or describes the person or object. Without names for people or objects, life wouldn’t have any definition or identity and would basically be utterly confusing and dull.
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