Fourth Blog: A Rose By "Almost" Any Other Name

"What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet."... Ahh, classic Shakespearean dialogue from Romeo and Juliet, an adage referencing that the name of things do not change their innate characteristics or attributes. That no matter what the label, it will conjure up that likeness in our minds. Fair enough. I hear the word "ointment" and damn it if that doesn't bring the image of ointment right into my head.

It is interesting, though, how words just seem so "right" when you hear them; sort of like each was meant to be. The fact that most of them were coined before we were born no doubt plays a role. Couple that with the process of learning these words through childhood from adults who seem totally on board with their pronunciations and meanings and it's a done deal. Our brains have been successfully washed. Give me the contract; where do I sign?

Whoa, wait just a sec. What about the words or phrases that were made up "after" we were born? Okay, worth considering. Well, if you're old enough to go back to the 60s and 70s you realize most of the nomenclature reflects the times' fashion and culture: miniskirts; love-ins; flower children; hippies. Later on computers dictated the scene: cyberspace; data base; text-messaging; internet; software... All of which seemed rather easy to adapt to. And we did. Rather easily. So there we have it, right?... Case closed?

You'd think. But there is one last blip on the radar; one little fly in the ointment (there's that word again): musicians and bands. Initially, they'd use their given names: The Duke Ellington Orchestra, The Lennon Sisters, the Everly Brothers but then suddenly there were The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead... Strawberry Alarm Clock.   At first these names were regarded as quirky, bizarre even. But then, just like any other words, everyone managed to get used to them. Even The Who and after that, The Guess Who (I don't know; I'm thinkin' NOT The Who?). Bottom line: Shakespeare was right; the name doesn't matter at all as long as it transmits the image into our minds.

And that should be the end of that. And it would be if it wasn't for one Arnold George Dorsey. Never heard of him, you say? You're not alone. Seems virtually no one had heard of this unsuccessful balladeer/crooner back in the 60s. That is until his manager convinced him to change his name to Engelbert Humperdinck (yeah, you heard right). From then on the man killed it, to the tune of 140 million albums sold. Wow, "what's in a name?" In this case, apparently a whole hell of a lot.

And so, that leads me to the big question: "Did Engelbert cross the line?" Is that whacky alias of his the exception when it comes to buying into a name? Something we just can't collectively get behind?... What say we put it to the "rose" test. If roses were initially named humperdincks would we be cool with it? Would we buy into Humperdinck McGowan and Humperdincky Perez as movie stars? How 'bout watching the Humperdinck Bowl Parade on TV? Would the saying, "Everything's coming up humperdincks" be the same? Would anyone in their right mind look at life through humperdinck-colored glasses?... I know, I know, doesn't paint the humperdinckiest picture, does it?