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WHAT IS IN A NAME

I awakened laughing at the fragments of a dream. My dreams usually have a shelf life of ten minutes or less. I could remember only a conversation in which I asked someone why their state did not choose a unique name instead of a copy of a neighboring state with only a directional adjective to distinguish it.


Why do we have six states out of fifty that lack originality?

North and South Dakota, North and South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia have notable differences. Why, then, did they settle for sameness?


A bit of research into the history behind the states' naming might answer my question. However, I chose to speculate on the psychology of naming anything, people, places, pets, real estate, etc.

We all remember the famous quote from Shakespeare, "What is in a name? What we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." In other words, a name has no intrinsic value. Names are simply labels we use to distinguish one thing or person from another.

So why do we attach such importance to these artificial tags?


Let me begin with the first name or given name since we usually inherit or marry our surname. Your parents probably gave a great deal of thought before assigning you a name, possibly before birth. Whether you love or hate your first name, it has become part of your identity. According to many psychologists, the sound of your name is the sweetest sound you hear.


Even in a dense crowd, your ears will discern your name being called. It may be another person with the same name, but you cannot avoid looking around to see if the call was meant for you. Discovering that it was not you, you may feel a sense of disappointment or relief, depending on the circumstances.


You might also toy with whether having a unique name would have made a difference in your life instead of a run-of-the-mill commonly used handle.


Your name may have been selected to honor a family member. Sometimes, that can be a blessing that creates a deeper bond or wonderful memory. At other times, carrying the name of someone close to you can feel like a burden or an obligation. Did that name come wrapped in expectations?


It is legally possible to change your given name, and many have done so. Economic considerations or marketing advantages may precipitate the change.

Celebrities have changed their forename and surname so frequently that we are rarely surprised to learn that John Wayne was christened Marion Robert Morrison or Marilyn Monroe began life as Norma Jeane Mortenson.


We have become accustomed to big-name personalities, especially in the music business, promoting themselves by a single name: Elvis, Cher, Liberace, Madonna, Adele, Sting, Drake, Usher, Prince, etc.


Creators and performers from the Hip Hop and Rap genres have made naming themselves an art form. Eminem, Jaz-Z, Snoop Dogg, Notorious B.I.G., Lil Wayne, Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre, and my favorite, 50 Cent.


Corporations shell out big bucks to marketing professionals to update and promote their brand names. Even in a sea of competitors, some brand names are used generically. What do you call the soft tissue covering your sneeze or drying your tears? I'll wait.

Wealthy philanthropists have traditionally had their names prominently adorn buildings, monuments, or rooms in return for endowments, e.g., libraries, art galleries, museums, and governmental offices.


Family homes of the financial or social aristocracy have received romantic or personally meaningful names. A few well-known examples include Monticello (Thomas Jefferson – VA), Montpelier (James Madison - VA), Biltmore Estate (Vanderbilt – NC), Mount Vernon (George Washington – VA), Lyndhurst (Jay Gould estate – NY), Falling Water (Frank Lloyd Wright design – PA), Graceland (Elvis Presley – TN), Neverland ( Michael Jackson – CA), The Promised Land – Oprah - CA), Paisley Park Estate (Prince – MI), The Ecology House or Xanadu 2.0 (Bill Gates – WA).


Even the upper-middle class have mimicked their financial superiors by naming their home or farm and proudly displaying that name on the front lawn. There are even books and websites available with suggestions for naming your property.


Many of us devote an embarrassing amount of time selecting names for our furry friends.

Proud owners of pedigreed four-legged family members take pride in sophisticated labels indicative of lineage.


For most of us, we search for a cute name that we will enjoy using or one that the animal can remember and respond to when called, usually one or two syllables.


Understanding the importance that has been attached to the naming of loved ones and significant architectural achievements, I am left with my original question. Why do we have six states out of fifty that lack originality?


Carolinians, Dakotans, and Virginians, it's time to step up your game. Claim your individuality. Don't continue to live in the shadow of your neighboring state.


If you exhaust the habit of borrowing from old-world monarchs, indigenous tribes, and geographical sites, think of choosing a name indicative of something special in your state.


North Dakota should be proud to reinstate its original name, the BADLANDS.


West Virginia is the only state entirely within the APPALACHIAN MOUNTAIN range, so why not proclaim your mountain pride instead of remaining a Virginia Also Ran?


North Carolina might consider DBUTSI or (Don't Blame Us, They Started It.)


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