The Magic of a Name

“The sweetest music this side of heaven is the sound of your own name”, says a top class sales expert. A name is a lifelong possession and the best way to attract the attention of a person is to call him by name.

Top management gurus opine that to be successful one should take pains to remember the names of not only one’s Chairman, boss or superiors, but also of one’s colleagues, juniors and acquaintances. Even a peon gives better service when we call him by name. People like you and respond to you favorably when you remember their names, pronounce it correctly and spell it correctly.

“Forgotten” is the cruelest word one can use when referring to a person’s name. it is an insult to the other person and implies that you don’t care for him at all. One has to make a conscious effort to remember a person’s name. One way is to associate one of his features with his name. Another way is to ask for his visiting card and later on jot down a few details about him on the reverse (the date and place where you met him etc). Also be sure to address a person in the proper manner (e.g. Doctor, professor, Captain etc), both verbally and in writing. Maintain an alphabetical index diary for names and people and update it regularly. You will soon find it an invaluable tool for widening your social circle, making contacts and getting to know people.

People go out of their way to perpetuate their family names. There are millions of Trusts, Endowments, Scholarships, Institutions etc all over the world, so that posterity may preserve the names of its founders. Shahjehan built the Taj Mahal so that future generations would remember him and his beloved for ever. Childless couples adopt children and give them their own names to continue the family lineage.

History abounds with examples of how a person’s name has been immortalized by being associated with a particular thing. John Montagu, The Earl of sandwich was also the first Sea Lord of Great Britain. He was also an inveterate gambler. He was so addicted to gambling that hew refused to interrupt his marathon gambling sessions to take his meals. So he commanded his valet to bring constant supplies of sliced meat between two slices of bread – this is the origin of the sandwich as we know it today.

The Earl of Cardigan led the historic Charge of the Light Brigade. The horsemen under him were wearing knitted woolen waistcoats. The knitted waist coat was named cardigan in his honor.

The word “blanket” comes from the name of Thomas Blanket who was a weaver in England during the 14th century. He is reputed to have spun the first blanket on a loom.

Andrew Celsius was the Swedish instructor who simplified the prevailing Fahrenheit scale (also named after its inventor Gabriel Daniel Fahrenheit).

Dame Nellie Melba was a popular Australian singer (she took the name Melba from her city Melbourne). After every performance in London, she would come to the famous Ritz hotel for dinner. The hotel chef created a new dish for her, combining peaches and ice with whipped cream. This he named as the Peach Melba Ice cream.

Most surnames in India have an interesting long story behind them. For example, there exists a surname Poduke, which roughly translated means stomach ache. Or consider Ekbote which means one finger. Mahato, Monia, Nonia are surnames of a group of people in Bihar which is rich in coal. The names roughly translated means “earth digging people”.

Traditionally, surnames evolve from occupations and caste as a method of classification. To differentiate between people according to their occupation, surnames were used and the surname acts as a direction to antecedents. Traders were considered migratory because they used to have to search for markets and generally Maharashtrian surnames ending in ‘kar’ (Tendulkar, Varangaokar etc) denote people who have migrated from other places.

With British dominion and the subsequent bureaucracy that they introduced, a whole new set of surnames came into being. The surname Patwari and Kulkarni for example mean people who keep records. Deshmukh means the administrator of a local area while Patil means the local police officer.

In Orissa, the surname Pradhan denotes an administrator of a local area while Sahu or sahoo (from Sahukar) denotes a money lender. Purohit or Pujari are surnames denoting the Brahmins or priests.

Surnames can also be used to identify caste mobility. Sathe is a Brahmanical surname while Sath is a surname which a particular non-Brahmin group had copied from Sathe because they wanted to improve their social position. In Bengal, Maitras are high caste Brahmins while Mitras are non-Brahmins.

Surnames are also used to maintain the purity of a clan and this can be very harmful in matrimony, where people could identify other people belonging to the same caste.

Talking of names, people with difficult names like Zarthusma, Shreyaush, or Jeronimo bear a lifelong burden. Some names are memorable and draw immediate attention. A person called “Frank N. Stein” is unlikely to be ignored. A researcher found uncommon names in the Telephone Directory such as “Pearl Harper”, “Bill Dollar” and “Wise Guy”- they must have had witty parents who thought of such names.

Recently there was a news item that in Sweden there are too few names to go around. The Ericsons, Johansons, and Nilsons are fed up of having to share their names with thousands of others, which is creating a lot of confusion. So the Swedish Govt has compiled a repository of 40,000 new names. Many have applied for these, the largest group being those holding surnames with the “son” affix. Tired of simply being someone’s son, they now want to assert their individuality.

One’s name is also closely linked with one’s reputation. Shakespeare has rightly said “the purest treasure mortal times afford is spotless reputation; that away, men are gilded loam or painted clay”. Once one’s reputation is lost, it is indeed difficult to reclaim it. “A person with a bad name is already half handed” it is said. It is wise to safeguard one’s reputation and not let it be sullied in any way.

Thus names act as magic and a tonic to influence and motivate people. Many names and surnames have an interesting and colorful history. It has been rightly said, “who hath not owned, with rapture smitten frame, the power of grace, the magic of a name.”


More by :  Dr. Anjana Maitra

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