An original essay
by Edward Fagan
David and Douglas sit peacefully on Douglas’ patio. It is a quiet Saturday afternoon and the weather is fine; both men are off from work and relaxing while chatting in their usual friendly manner. Both men like thoughtful conversation and several topics are discussed by them this afternoon. During their conversation, Douglas raises a topic from a former conversation which is of particular interest to him, “Naming People”. David and Douglas are discussing this topic.
“Why are we given names?”, ask Douglas, as David is about to place the magazine through which he is browsing on the table before him. “I think we are given names so that we can be identified from among others.”, David answers. “In a world of only two persons neither one of them would need a name as there would be no chance of a mistaken identity.”, David remarks with a smile.
“Are there any other reasons for which names are sometimes given?”, asks Douglas with a rather innocent look on his face. David answers after a short pause, “Yes, two such reasons come to mind.” David continues by saying that “The first reason has to do with an attempt to indicate one or more peculiarities of the bearer of the name.” David then says, “The second reason has to do with an attempt to stigmatize the bearer of the name (individually and or collectively) by giving them a name that is by nature derogatory and belittling.”
“Let us look at the first of these two other reasons for which names are sometimes given.”, David suggests. Douglas agrees, and David continues by saying “This is not so much of another reason for giving a name to a baby but rather an attempt to give the baby a name which, not only identifies him but more specifically tells us something about one or more of his peculiarities.” David continues to say that, “In some cultures, names are selected for babies based on the meaning of the name and its relevance to some physical or other trait of the baby or an aspect of the baby’s life or circumstances.”
David continues by reminding, “Remember that the following list of categories of baby names that is mentioned here and used in some cultures is not exhaustive.” David then states, “Some of the categories under which baby names are selected for a more specific indication of any of the baby’s personal or circumstantial traits are: body, birth, family background, circumstances, geography and the hopes and fears of the parents.” David continues, “Here also are some examples of names, with their meaning given after them, that are chosen for the relevance of their meaning to personal or circumstantial traits of the baby: Ham (black) Augustus (born in August) Moses (drawn from the water) Omar (first born) Muhammad (most praised one).”
“Now let us look at the second of these two other reasons for which names are sometimes given.”, David remarks. He takes a sip of a glass of orange juice which he is served by Douglas. Douglas clears his throat and nods in agreement. David continues by saying, “This second reason for giving a name is not like the first reason in that it can sometimes be a bad reason. The reasons for giving names in this case are often to derogate and belittle the bearer of the name. Such derogatory and belittling names are given to groups and individuals in order to stigmatize them.”
David continues by saying that, “Names only identify a person, they do not shape or mold him. They do not determine how or what a person is; and they do not determine the choices a person makes or the outcome of those choices.” Pausing for a sip of orange juice, David then continues, “Derogatory names are no exception to this rule even though they sometimes succeed in stigmatizing the bearer of them.”
Douglas shakes his head in agreement and softly taps the top of the table with his right index finger, before he says, “I could not agree with you more.” Douglas then pauses shortly before continuing to say, “Names do not make us, character does. Stigmatization gradually disappears when character appears. Stigmatized persons only need to show true character.” Douglas continues, “Where character has lapsed it must be revived. Where it never existed, it must be developed. Some of the basic areas of activity for practice of characterful development are: willingness to live with others harmoniously, honesty, truthfulness, forgiveness, empathy and general outgoing care and concern for others.” Douglas continues by saying, ” Setting worthwhile goals to be pursued is the next step that should be taken by the stigmatized person. It should also be noted that when persons of character work hard toward achieving lofty goals, they almost always achieve such goals.”
Douglas pauses briefly after speaking, then gets up and clears the table of the remaining orange juice and the drinking glasses which were used earlier by both men; he takes them into the kitchen. In Douglas’ absence, David gets up and walks slowly toward the rear outer edge of the patio and surveys the surrounding area and the sky. Returning to the table on Douglas’ return from the kitchen, David says, “It is almost dusk. I shall stay for the evening news then I shall be going.” The evening news begins at seven o’ clock. After a short period of silence, both men join Douglas’ beautiful wife in the living room where she is sitting while awaiting the start of the evening news. The evening news ends an hour later and David departs for home after thanking Douglas for a good conversation and his friendly presence; and after thanking Douglas’ wife for welcoming him as their guest.
By Edward Fagan