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  • Does someone’s name influence who they become?

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    In its most simple definition, a name is an identifier. Names are often one of the first pieces of information you can learn about another, a label to match a face to another conscious being. Historically, names carried weight depending on things like your family’s prestige or class, any trades passed on from father to son, one great ancestor who did something revolutionary,  or they were tied to a certain ethnic group/region of people. In recent history and modern society, a name can still be tied to prestige as well as socioeconomic status, ethnicity and gender identity (or lack there of). Both historically and in present times, a name has been closely tied with different aspects of one’s life journey that influences the paths they take; and while it may not be the only factor molding a person into who they are– a name plays a role in who they become. 

    Traditionally, names (specifically last names) held the purpose of identifying a group of people, whether a clan, a royal lineage, tradesman etc. Other members of society,  like non-skilled laborers, peasants and the poor had no names of significance. Their lives were often never documented, poorly documented, or grouped together with others in their class, having no uniqueness, respect or reverence as opposed to those with names that mattered. A name would decide whether or not someone would be remembered years onward or disappear from memory.

    Currently, in the United States and other immigrant- rich countries, there’s a history of groups of people being “othered”, and  physically separated. This amounts to institutionalized inequality on a local and national societal level. And while the core of these issues may be cultural differences, the existence of hateful ideologies and the human fear of all things different and new,  names have always been intertwined with these issues. Oftentimes throughout history, people have changed their names to be more palatable, named their children ‘Western’ or ‘white’ names, rebranded or censored aspects of their culture, etc, in order to make navigating society easier. Thus, with names being integral parts of identities, some people feel the need to alter them in attempts to alleviate some aspects of oppression and progress through niche areas of society like academia and corporate America. 

    In regards to gender identity and expression, names have been a source of both degradation and power for LGBTQ minority groups. When unable to change their names, many gender and sexual minorities can experience obstacles in their mental health, social life, romantic pursuits, careers, personal safety, and overall self esteem. Being able to identify with a preferred name or legally change your name to one that fits your persona, can have drastic effects on a person’s life – in all aspects.

    In conclusion, names, both given and chosen, have and always will hold a significant part in the development and outcome of any person’s life journey. As each person’s own main identifier to the world, they represent us; the associations society may hold towards your name get tied to you. Whether it be how it’s spelt, it’s length, origin, difficulty to pronounce, gender bias etc., a name follows you from birth till death, affecting you from birth till death.




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    Dale News Online Publication: October 2023