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ValueSpeak: What's in a name?

Published: Friday, July 26 2013 11:50 p.m. MDT

Duchess Catherine and Prince William with their newborn baby.

Associated Press

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I know they’ve been waiting for this at Buckingham Palace, so I’ll just go on the record right up front and state categorically that I approve of the name “George” for the British baby who is now third in line to the crown of England.

I like George. George is a good, solid name. Growing up, I had two very good friends named George, and they were both great guys. There was also a period of time when I had a crush on a girl named Gloria George, and that was good, too.

I like to think of His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge as the Seinfeld baby. All three of his names — George Alexander Louis — come straight out of the long-running sitcom, “Seinfeld.” The character of GEORGE was played by Jason ALEXANDER, who often played off of Julia LOUIS-Dreyfuss.

It’s all very yada-yada-yada.

Great Britain has been off its collective trolley over a name for the tiny royal ever since his impending arrival was announced. Odds were established (Ladbrokes was spot on, with George the most likely name at 10-1, Alexander second at 20-1 and Louis tied with Richard for third at 25-1 — what are the odds?). Bets were placed. Journalists predicted, prophesied and pontificated. And when at last the baby was born and the name was revealed, all seven syllables of it, royal historians proclaimed it to be good — a name with a royal heritage.

Baby naming can be like that, even for us commoners. For example, when the time came to name our youngest child, Anita and I didn’t wrestle with the name as much as we wrestled with the spelling of it. One of us (I won’t say who) suffered from the delusion that his name should be spelled J-O-N-A-T-H-O-N even though there isn’t one shred of supporting evidence to back the claim. The other proudly (and yet, somehow, humbly) cited the Holy Bible, Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary and “Highway to Heaven” as examples of why the name should correctly be spelled J-O-N-A-T-H-A­-N.

So who was right? (I know — easy call. But pretend it isn’t so Anita won’t have to feel completely humiliated.)

OK, so maybe we made a bigger deal out of this than necessary. Our Jon would be our Jon whether his name was Matthew, Mark, Luke or Jonathon. As Shakespeare’s Juliet said, “That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.”

Our names are labels that don’t really mean anything intrinsically. They may reflect tradition and heritage, and they may give us a leg up on life — or a leg down, as the case may be. But ultimately, they are empty words until we fill them with meaning by the way we live our lives. Their significance is determined by how we choose to use them. Well used, a good name can open doors, establish credibility and become an instant testimonial to an honorable reputation — “the immortal part of myself,” according, once again, to Shakespeare.

Poorly used, however, a name can live forever in infamy. And if you doubt that … well, how many people under 60 do you know whose given name is Adolf?

“Who steals my purse steals trash,” wrote (who else?) Shakespeare. “Tis something, nothing; 'twas mine, 'tis his … But he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him, and makes me poor indeed.”

No matter how it’s spelled or how royal it may be.

To read more by Joseph B. Walker, please go to www.josephbwalker.com.

Email: jwalker@desnews.com

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