A Rose by Any Other Name

‘That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’, reasoned Juliet.  But would it?  ‘Would it really smell the same?’ Young girls like Juliet do not always think logically when in love.

After several hundred years the rose and its name have grown together.  They are intertwined like the two roses on the graves of unhappy lovers in the old ballads. The name has a life now.  We talk of days of wine and roses.  If a rose were called a cabbage, would it smell as sweet?

‘Please accept this cabbage as a token of my undying affection.’ 

No, a cabbage is for school dinners and little else.    

Surely one of the most attractive players on the women’s tennis circuit today is Garbine Muguruza.  In no way does her name do her justice.  No matter how you say it, it simply does not sound right.

Hollywood actors of the 50s and 60s changed their names altogether. John Wayne’s real name was Marion Morrison. Can the tough guy be called Marion?  Cary Grant’s real name was Archibald Leach.  Imagine the romantic lead being called Archibald Leach!

Years ago I taught a Greek student called Aphrodite. She was one of a distance-learning group so I never actually saw my students.  But I could imagine Aphrodite! There is much in a name.  When I marked assignments, it was a real effort not to award 10 out of 10 to the goddess of love and beauty of my school days.  My comments on her work were always too kind and diplomatic.  ‘This argument is interesting but not quite right’ or   ‘I’m afraid you might have missed the point here.’ I could not censure Aphrodite. However much I tried to be fair and unbiased, Aphrodite had a head start on all the other students in the group.

Then there is the problem of naming babies. At first the new name seems strange.  The secret is to accept whatever name the parents have chosen.

‘Do you know what name they’ve given the baby?  What do you think?’

‘Well, yes. It is a little unusual. I’m not completely sure about it but it’ll probably be fine.’

Then, after a month or so the name seems perfect and everyone wonders why they didn’t think of it themselves.

The name ‘Harry Potter’ is interesting. At first sight Harry Potter is not the name that brings to mind a young hero. It suggests a middle-aged man from suburbia who listens to Gardeners’ Question Time every week on BBC radio before going out to clip the hedge.  But the success of the novels means the name has lost any negative connotations and now Harry Potter could not be called anything else.

The same applies to Harry Potter’s school, Hogwarts.  Hog is a pig and warts are, well, warts as in the phrase ‘warts and all’. What combination could be worse than pigs and warts?  Yet this is all put aside and forgotten as we read the books.

So perhaps names are not that important.  Perhaps Juliet was right after all.