What’s in a Name? Actually, More Than You’d Think

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

– William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

William Shakespeare came out with a lot of famous words and quotes. I always thought that this one was two separate quotes – ‘What’s in a name?’ and ‘A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet’ – and I never realised they were said together.


 A rose will of course smell just as sweet if we called a roze, like Dutch, or a rosa, like Italian, or a surgens, like Latin (thank you,   Google Translate). Roses don’t smell particularly different if you travel from one country to the next. No, the problem that I have with this quote mostly lies in the ‘what’s in a name?’ part. In the context, Juliet is basically telling Romeo that it doesn’t matter he is Montague and she is a Capulet, which works very well. However, Juliet does need to remember that a lot can lie in a name, just like it can lie in a word.

The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter-it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.

– Mark Twain

You see, these two quotes seem to be at war with each other. Although I hate to go against Shakespeare, considering he is probably the most famous person in the world and is an amazing writer, an awful lot can lie in a name. For instance, if Juliet were called Sam, quite a lot of us would probably look at her in a different way even if none of the other words in the play were changed. The very name Juliet sounds of red dresses and red dresses remind me of love (in my opinion). I’m not sure if that’s the influence of the story and the experiences that I associate with the name, but if Juliet were to be a colour it would be red.


To give some other examples, Joanna is a yellow-blue name and Greg is a green and brown name. I know this sounds a bit like synaesthesia but names give me different feelings and colours were just a good way to describe those feelings (as a note, I have always wondered if not everyone sees red as red. Maybe they see green as red, but they think of green as red so they don’t know it. Sorry for going a bit off topic there).

In short what I am trying to say is that there is a lot in a name; not only meanings, but emotions as well. And that doesn’t just end with names, because words even more powerful.


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