First Day of Classes and The Concept of Names

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the first day of class. Going over the syllabus always filled me with excitement. I like learning, and learning about what learning I’ll be doing in the near future was like candy. The worst part about the first day was always introductions.

Hi, my name is blank, I’m from blank, I’m a blank major, and something exciting I did over the summer was blank.

Maybe it’s in part because no one ever seems to do something exciting over summers (except that one kid who went to Mexico or where ever) or because I know I won’t remember anyone’s name, but the biggest reason is because introducing myself fills me with anxiety.

Do I use my full name? Just my first name? My nick name? City and state? What in God’s name did I do over the summer? I draw a blank on it. If I’m lucky enough to go near the end I write myself out a script on the corner of the syllabus. I even write down my name in case I forget.

It’s funny how much emphasis people put on names. It’s perceived as one of the most important details about a person. I suppose it makes sense–what good is knowing random facts about someone if you cannot refer to them clearly? But yet they are still so strange.

The functionality of names is inarguable. But why are names sometimes popular? Why are there millions of Emilys, Olivias, Davids, and Sams? Why do we invent words and call them names? What is an “Emily” anyhow? Some names mean things, if you look them up, but no one ever actually names their daughter “Bringer of Light.” But why not?

Sometimes I think about myself and my name and it blows my mind that my name is mine. I will say it out loud, hear it come out of my mouth, and feel baffled. It doesn’t seem like a fact. It doesn’t seem important.

Something interesting about the English language–and I don’t know if other languages do this, but I don’t think most do–is that we say “I am Tom” whereas other cultures would say “My name is Tom.” Both sentences are correct in English, but the difference is that we often have such a close relationship with our name it becomes us. We are not our names–we are separate beings, we are bodies, we are minds. The name is just what we refer to each other as.

I also think it would be nice if it were more commonplace to change one’s name. Perhaps at 18 years of age, if everyone got to choose whether to keep their name or switch it. Many people don’t like their name. Someone’s parents may have named them Sunflower when they feel like an Alice, or vice versa.

Overall, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Just don’t forget yours during introductions.


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