“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.” This is a quote from William Shakespeare’s play, “Romeo and Juliet”. And here is another quote from “Anne of Green Gables”: “I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I’ve never been able to believe it. I don’t believe a rose would be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.” What do you think? Well, I’ll take Anne’s side. I believe names do matter. Here are four ways your name affects your life.
1. Your name creates your first impression
When you meet a person, one of the first impressions you get from them is their name. If their name is the same as a popular person, it will no doubt give you some bias towards them. For example, suppose there were two professional pianists, one’s name was Frédéric Chopin and the other’s was Mike Tyson. Which pianist’s recital would you pay 200 dollars for? Your name can cause some unfavorable misconceptions about you.
2. Difficult names can be avoided
As I live in Japan, most names are written in Kanji or Chinese characters. Parents these days tend to give their children unique kanji names that are very difficult to read. These unusual names sometimes confuse people, and as a consequence, should be avoided. There is this kanji name “奏” which literally means “to play an instrument”. This can be pronounced as “sou”, which is the most common reading, then “kanade” comes next. But believe it or not, this can also be read as “melody”, which is not even a Japanese word any more. (In Japan, we are allowed to use whatever Chinese character we want with whatever sound when it comes to names. What is weird about this name is that the verb ”奏でる” which means “to play an instrument” is not equivalent to “melody” at all). If I were an MC for an event and having to choose an e-mail to read in front of the audience, I would choose one with an easy name, because I don’t want to get into trouble by mispronouncing a difficult name. To avoid being avoided, you had better not give your child a name that is too hard to read.
3. A unique name is easily detected
In this information age, having a unique name gives you both advantages and disadvantages. Those who have conspicuous names are easily found and identified on the Internet. If you want to be famous, your uncommon name will be a strong point. People can find your information with ease because there are few people with the same name, which means your own information won’t be lost in the search results. Conversely, if you are an introvert and don’t want to be detected, your unique name will annoy you. You may be flooded with friend requests from distant acquaintances who searched you on social networking service (SNS). Your rare name can be a noticeable marker that leads to you.
4. Your name influences your character
Have you ever thought that your personality might be a little bit different if you had a different name? Does your name have the power to change your character? I think it does. From ancient times in many countries, words are said to have some miraculous power to affect people’s lives. Then why not names? If a girl named Grace is brought up, being called by her name hundreds of times a day, her behavior will probably reflect her name and it is possible that she grows up to be a graceful lady, like old Grace Kelly. Having said that, be careful, names not always give us good influence. I know this dog whose name is “Kamui” or “divinity” in Japanese. The original meaning is pretty good, but the sound “kamu” also means “to bite”. In the end, Kamui grew up to be a dog with a biting habit. You had better not underestimate the hidden effects that names have on our lives.
There is this Roman saying “Nomen set omen” or “Name is destiny.” Calling it “destiny” may be going too far, but still, I believe our names affect our lives substantially.