Thursday, October 30, 2003

We Have Brains

In response to the following:

a rose by any other name
October 26, 2003 11:18 AM

If you are married, did you take your husband's last name? Or, if you're unmarried, do you plan to take your husband's last name? Why or why not?

If you did not take your husband's last name, have you ever had any problems because of it?

How about Mrs.? Are you, will you ever, be "Mrs." anyone, or is "Ms." the only title you will will ever take?

And of course, for men, do you want your wife to take your last name, and why or why not?

In general how do you think this naming thing should be handled? Last names, children's names, etc.

This is a familiar discussion. One in which I don't think there can ever be a consensus as to "acceptable" practices of naming and renaming.

That having been said, I'm going to be so bold as to say that name--like any sign--is arbitrary. There is no quality of the thing labelled inherent in the name; there is nothing in "Natalie" to indicate that the word refers to me.

All words/signs obtain their significance from their usage in society. So long as we agree to call a certain thing "X," it will be understood that that thing is "X." Similarly, we can agree to call "X" "Z" without the thing itself having been changed.

What is perhaps more important than the name is the act of naming itself.

To name is to exercise power; to name oneself, the ultimate act of self-recognition.

The freedom to choose to take or reject any future husband's name is more important to me than the actual name itself. The freedom to evoke "Ms" or "Miss" (or "Ma'am"/"Madame," for that matter) in connection with myself is of equal importance (incidentally, I happen to reject all those titles--preferring just "Natalie"--and nothing irritates me more than being "Ma'am"ed by sales clerks!)

Certainly that's not to say that children should remain nameless until they're old enough to choose their own name. But they--everyone, for that matter--should have the freedom of re-evaluating and determining the appropriateness of the name that stands for them.

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