Sunday, February 26, 2012

What's In a Name?

While writing the story of the Black Widow Spider and the Regal, I made one simple edit in a sentence and forever changed the way I understood names.  I removed the word “the” before “Spider”.  At once, Spider leaped off the page as a Being.  A Being seen, acknowledged.  A connection was made between Spider and the reader that wasn’t there before.  A personal one.

“The spider paused and waited”.

“Spider paused and waited”.

See what I mean?

If you hear or read Traditional stories by the First Peoples of Turtle Island, all living beings are referred to in this way.  Muskrat.  Eagle.  Salmon.  Water. And of course they would be.  The intimate connection between all things was intact, with language reflecting understanding of the human place side by side with all other creation.  They have known this forever.

My recent ancestry is European; my ancestral DNA comes mainly from the Li Tribe of Northeast India and surrounding regions.  I can say greetings in Canadian (morning, heh?), Arabic (Syrian dialect), Spanish, Ojibwe, French, and Swana (Botswana).  I can say I love you, please, and thank you in Tagalog (Philippines). The only language I am fluent in is English so from there I will ponder this historical curiosity.

Did the English language ever speak of other beings the way the Native peoples do in their stories?  Surely every culture lived in close connection with Mother Earth at one time or another.  Why would “the” have been added?

First, I would think it harder to kill something you are on a first name basis with, don’t you?  How many of you could shoot Bambi?

Consider names and the depersonalization of war.  Do you know what the U.S. military designated as the code name for Osama Bin LadenGeronimo. Really?  Wonder how that made our Native brothers and sisters feel.  I wonder what would have happened had they named him Malcolm X?  There is a lot of meaning in a name.

Secondly, Christian teaching places “man” as ruler of all things.  That is another possible explanation for adding “the” before, say, the word "Deer".  After all, only Pagans would have felt a kinship with Deer in those early European days and the Crusaders I am sure would have none of that!  Maybe they tacked a rider on Crusader House Appropriations Bill #105 that required the word “the” be spoken before any noun referring to any “thing” the Pagans worshipped or revered.

But what about times before the Pagans and the Crusaders?  How did the Peoples of the Goddess religions speak about other Beings?  I have no idea. But I would imagine that they didn’t use “the”.

Heck, even Canadians know about “the”.  Have you ever heard a news story broadcast from the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC)?  “There was a three car pile-up on the Al-Can highway today when a large Moose stepped in front of the speeding cars.  Six people were taken to Hospital.”  Did you catch that?  Of course they would take “the” away.  They value healthcare for all.  They respect Hospital.

Words have power.  I can call you Friend and you may feel all warm and fuzzy.  And I can also call you “(*%^(*#) and you may feel devastated and hurt.  As words have power so do names.  Think the N word.  Think all the other racially derogatory words used to name other non-white racial groups.  Think dyke or queer or fag.  We don’t seem to have a problem at all removing “the” from those names.   Why, then, is it so hard for us to honor others in a positive way?

I think it is a subconscious habit that keeps us disconnected from our Relations in the natural world, from each other, and ultimately from ourselves.  Because we are, after all, part of the same web of life.  Take a day this week and try removing “the” when you talk about other beings in your world.  Let me know if it makes you feel any different.

And to my Conservative Republican friends, try saying “Hospital” instead of “the hospital”.  Maybe you will see public healthcare in a new light.

No comments:

Post a Comment