|English Grammar through Stories|
|Expressions with the word name|
|«The name of the game»
The parents of a very good friend of mine decided to give as their son's second name the word we use for the current month - August. Naturally as a child he tended to keep quiet about it and now only uses it as an initial in his signature, which is probably the best thing to do. Mind you girls' names are different. April, May and June are quite pleasant to the ear and you forget that they are also the names of months. And that's the funny thing about names. We tend to associate a particular personality with a specific name although we could be completely wrong. A celebrated case in point concerns a certain Dr Mudd. The American President Lincoln was shot by a man named Booth, who broke his leg trying to escape and got medical help from a country doctor called Samuel Mudd. Mudd was quite unaware what Booth had done and gave him appropriate treatment. The next day he informed the police and despite his ignorance of the assassination at the time, he was arrested, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Fortunately he was pardoned 4 years later but the poor doctor's name has gone into the language and to say to someone: «Your name's mud» (the extra «d» has now disappeared) means that you have a bad reputation. «To clear your name» is to prove that you were not involved in a crime of which you were accused. This finally happened to our doctor friend Samuel but not until the 1970's. In fact «giving someone or something a bad name» is to damage their reputation. So if a company is known to make faulty products, then this will give it a bad name.
On the positive side you can of course get well known for your great ability or success. If an actress has been applauded not only by audiences but also by the critics, she is said to be «making a name for herself». There are those who love to impress others with the people they know or have met. They possibly know that famous actress — well they know someone who knows her but they like to give the impression that they know famous people and like to mention these names in the course of a conversation. This harmless pursuit is known as «namedropping». I once had a conversation with a previous Prime Minister of the UK when he visited the college where I was the deputy principal and couldn't resist telling people about this whenever I could. That gentleman is now out of favour and people have started «calling him names» (being rude about him) and so I don't mention him at all now. But then that's what happens in politics — «that's the name of the game» — that's the central thing about that kind of profession.
Magic plays a part in these expressions, too. Some people are universally respected and their name alone evokes all kinds of favourable feelings. It can be in sport, in show business or indeed in manufacturing. This is said to be «a name to conjure with» and when you mention it, everyone is impressed. And on the negative side of this that very name can be used in a disrespectful way very often in religious contexts where the leader of a religion is spoken of in an abusive way and that's what we call «taking someone's name in vain». This expression can be found in the English translation of the Bible: «They were punished for taking the Lord's name in vain».
Let's end on a romantic note, which I am afraid is linked with tragedy. When a young couple decide to get married, everyone wants to know when the wedding will be — that's when «they name the day». This is what one of the most famous young couples in history wanted to do — Romeo and Juliet but tragedy intervened because they both die before this can happen. And it all had to do with names. They both came from different families the Montagues and the Capulets, who were deadly rivals. And here I have to revert to my favourite poet, William Shakespeare, who in the words of his hero Romeo has him say that names are not important and need not divide Romeo and Juliet:
«What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.»
|English Grammar through Stories|