Having a spare hour or so in my local town I decided to do something quite out of the ordinary for me and many thousands even in our own country. I went to our library. But this was not a whimsical visit I had a purpose. For a few days I was wondering why we use our most common word ‘the’. Now I know every word is just a sound but ‘the’ is quite a weird one. Many of our words have come from our varied ancestral languages that now make up English. But ‘the’ is a weird sound it has a guttural sound to it, but we use the very front of our mouth to form the start of the sound and then the deepest part of our throat to finish it. It is basically just a pronounced grunt.
I struggled through high school French, and my few weeks attempt at German became laughable. But one thing always intrigued me, was the gendering of objects. This I always found wrong, she is a table he is a door etc. Why didn’t every body just do away with gendering and do as we do and make it inanimate? So after almost 40 years of belief in our superior system, you can imagine my shock at the discovery that we once gendered our furniture.
But as I thought about it a little deeper, we do still gender some items don’t we. For hundreds of people out there their car is female, and many carry names. I grew up with a tree in the garden we affectionately knew as ‘the old man.’ It is if not captivating it is at least thought provoking to ponder the beginnings of words.
It’s a testament to our language that there is no defining figure to how many words there are. Arguments are in the region of 1.2 million words, why are we using the words we are speaking now.
I love words, I love this amazing English language. The rolling beauty, of a poem. The rising euphoria created by a speech before war. The linguistic skills of a rapper. Even the basic answer of a child
Sadly my command of the language and its punctuation eludes me. I have tried to tame the ordered world of the comma and full stop. The split infinitive and third person commentary are secret codes that I can not crack. I was once told that my mind races on over the horizon and my thoughts don’t wait for comprehension to catch up. A mind that creates good grammar is likened to a pack of lions hunting; each knows its place and role, where as mine is more like a herd of springbok evading capture.
Thankfully programmes written by those who do understand such things are available for me to use and I can make somewhat understandable sense of my thoughts. This brings me onto the meaning of Names.
This is where our language lets us down. Many of our names have lost their ancestral homes. Do Mr. and Mrs Fletcher still make arrows? Does young David Walker still trudge daily in vats of urine soaked clothes setting the dye?
Mr Baker, Smith, Carpenter, Weaver. All these names are now carried by people who have forgotten the feel of the tools that gave them their name.
Then there are our first names, my own is carried by both genders but with different meanings as a male like my self it means ‘supplanter’ for the female ‘conqueror’. I have never asked my parents why they called me ‘Jamie’ it was probably due to it being a derivative of my fathers ‘James’. When we named our own children, my wife and I used names that connected with us in different ways. Our oldest was after a song, my only boy after a character in a book who we admired, the next girl down was another derivative, this time after my wife’s name then the last one because well we were running out of ideas and we liked the sound of it.
But what if our names were to truly reflect our personalities, like they once did? Would our names sound smooth and gentle, caring or protective? Or would they sound harsh, bitter, angry, even jealous?
If someone close to you were to name you to a stranger with one word what would they name you? Would you like to be named for your looks, or your wealth? Would you to prefer them to name you after your personality, or you intellect? Imagine a world where all females looked exactly the same and all men were perfect copies, yet that was the only change. Would your character shine bright enough to stand out? Would your name be; Joy, Kindness, Love, Patience. Or would it be Vapid, bitter, jealous, angry?
So what is your name?