The Power of Names…

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – Juliet, Romeo & Juliet.

I often think of Juliet’s declaration to Romeo.  Mostly because as an English major in college I devoured every Shakespeare class I could register for (and some I couldn’t).  But also because it is such a simple yet simultaneously complex idea that inspires some really interesting questions – the most obvious of course: Do the “names of things” really matter or is the thing itself more important?

In college, I sided with Juliet.  The rose is still a sweet smelling flower with thorns – regardless of whether it is called a rose or not.  So, I rationalized, must all things of nature follow this rule – including human beings.  But now…now I am starting to think differently. You see, I believe my name has actually played a huge part in developing who I am today.  Why? Because the early experiences that came with having a name like “Sigalle” (pronounced See-gahl) shaped the when and how I learned specific lessons.

Early Lessons Learned

What you read is not always how it sounds. I learned quickly that words are tricky little groups of letters that, if mispronounced, could create a different meaning, cause confusion or even embarrassment.  Thus, from a very early age, I was careful to listen closely to an individual’s pronunciations as they spoke while picturing the spelling to create the corresponding link in my mind.

How it sounds is not always uniform.  As my name has Hebrew and French origins, my name is also accordingly pronounced differently depending on whether it was my father (Romania and Hebrew accents), mother (Hebrew and French accents) or my grandparents (Arabic and French accents) pronouncing it. This can be quite confusing for a child – especially as it is juxtaposed with the way it was pronounced in English speaking schools.

You can’t always get what you want.  My name meant no accessibility to pre-made keychains, t-shirts, necklaces, magnets, etc. This may seem like a silly one but when I was younger it impacted my childhood desires.  I did grow up in the 80’s and 90’s, after all, where such things were way cool. Every field trip, every gift shop, every vacation, every trip to the mall – while my friends, brother, cousins all shared in this phenomenon – my ability to get something of this nature was just purely not possible. And not in the spoiled “I want this kind of way.” There were many things I couldn’t have due to finances, practicality, etc. It was more of a “there’s never a possibility because they don’t make it” way.

Reacting to Others – Childhood Teasing: Although this is probably something even individuals with common names have experienced – there were many years of dealing with various teasing – the most prevalent being called a Seagull and having boys “caw” at me as a kid. Yep. The good ol’ days of elementary school. But of course, that taught me to be resilient, to be proud of a part of me regardless if others around me ridiculed it and to stand my ground.  It even taught me to be forgiving when those very boys grew up more and became my friends.

Looking to the meaning of things. As a I mentioned earlier, my name has a variety of origins and with that an attachment to different meanings.  In Hebrew it means “purple flower,” for instance whereas in French it means “cicada.”  Knowing these definitions of my name made me impose some of the meaning’s attributes to my own character as a child.  My cicada origins made me talkative and energetic whereas my flower origins made me close to nature and more inclined to buy purple dresses 😉

Do I know for certain that I would be the same without my name?  Not so much.  But I strongly believe in the early lessons learned because of the name I had and how those experiences shaped my personality. So Juliet, I would have to say that I respectfully disagree. I think that Sigalle, by any other name, may smell differently.

This post is part of the Weekly Writing Challenge: Power of Names rendition.

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