What’s in a Name, anyway?


What’s so distressing about someone saying your name wrong? Is there something more to it than a lack of familiarity? Is it disrespect? Is it passive-aggressive hostility? There’s something sacrosanct about a name. It’s the first gift we’re given as children, and like many unasked-for gifts, it can be just as much a burden as a gift. There’s a great deal of expectation in a name, isn’t there? What does it mean to be named after a parent, a hero, a saint? What sort of weight must the child rise to carry? In a strange sort of way, isn’t a name – or rather, the act of naming – just as much an act of claiming? It is a joy for a parent to declare, “This is my child, and he is called ‘Aloysius'” or some such. It is an investment in and of itself, as well as the name on the investment’s medical records. It is the mark of the human community which has been (the tradition once borne by the parents’ parents), which is (as perpetuated by the parents) and which is to come (eventually, by the children). It will grow to be both identification and, in part, identity. It may be, in its own way, as much a down payment on the child’s eventuality as the parents’ genetic donations.

Bernard Marx, Helmholtz Watson, Lenina Crowne. Tommy, Ruth, Kathy. Who names these infants, freshly decanted?

Why do these chimeras and clones, these grotesque parodies of human life as we once knew it as Leon Kass might well have said,  demand naming? For the first three, there was certainly no beaming parent desperately reaching to cradle them into their arms; for the latter three, what caring parent could [SPOILERS] an organ-farm clone have? The former are all pieces in a society structured like a von Neumann machine, and the latter are all collections of pieces just waiting to be rendered down. For the former, why name something which, other than its uniqueness, has no other purpose outside its social role? For the latter, why even bother with the slightest sentimentality? In world gone mad with human objectification, what does a name signify? What can a name signify?

~B. Guarino

~ by breonmguarino on January 29, 2014.

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