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December 15, 2011

What’s Not in a Name?

I’m close-to-officially changing my first name to Tomás. My people were potato farmers. They farmed only one kind of potato. My people were also cherry-pickers who grew corn before they picked cherries. They made a lot of things out of corn. The potato farmers got sick and had to leave their country. The corn-farmer inside me is getting sick and wants to fix his country. The horse on the hill, across from the fairgrounds – he could be from anywhere.

I think about names – your name, my name, names I made up, the names of famous people, the names of birds and trees. What’s in it? Something sacred happens in a name. A name is not just a name. A name is a history and an action. People were tasked with naming you. Names have vowels and consonants because they demand harmony from the ear – sounds collide at your ear. Each combination is heard alone, by itself, never to be heard again. Nothing is said similarly. Not even your name.

It is only that we cannot distinguish, and because we assume and project. Our species fragile like branches. It is easy to be strong or to be conquered. It’s easy for those who rule to rule, and those on welfare to be on welfare. Some get cancer, die, and everyeone mourns them. Others win the lotto and walk hated by the town.

I write because I want to touch out to you. I want to see you seeing me as I reach toward you with my language. I don’t want you to read what I’m saying, I want us to be together. I want to create names with everyone by bouncing my language off their language and listening to it echo in a valley.

The last thing I want is for anyone to burn a book, be afraid or ashamed of what they did. People will be afraid and ashamed and go back to being proud and confident like the winds on Antarctica eventually complete their toroidal flow and years or months later, bear down on the equatorial seas.

Language helps us overcome the nature of our density. In allowing us to communicate, it gives us a reason to exist. Think of all the things you’ve named and how important they are. Imagine never having named something. Imagine lying in bed, longing for a person or a place, and not having the sound of its name to say over and over in your head.

One Comment on “What’s Not in a Name?

kate
December 17, 2011 at 1:01 am

funny, I should have an urge to call you “tommy” tonight– because it is the name I remember fondly for you– the name of a time when we were still discovering words, ourselves, the world. So, what’s not in a name? Perhaps it is the off syllables. The unspoken beats of shared experiences– the pieces of stories, the making of selves. Or maybe, when we reach a point when we want to move from names of the past to who we have become– maybe that’s when we truly understand the beauty of language.

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