Thursday, February 19, 2015

You know sometimes names have two meanings

The Death of Safe Strength, with Grayman and Brightman at his side.
First off, apologies for the long absence since the last post: some unexpected travel, and then work, prevented me from writing. Glad to be back, though!

When I was younger, I was entranced by some Native American names that were also plain-language words: names like "Ben Nighthorse Campbell" (the former Senator from Colorado). Google is helping me turn up other examples: "Creepingbear," "Lone Hill." The practice seems common to a number of nations and languages, and I presume that they are English translations of names that would have been common in languages that are now endangered or lost. There was a certain evocative beauty in having a part of your name lie so manifestly close to its signification. We all enjoy knowing the etymologies, the "real meanings," of our names (that George means "earth-worker," or that Jennifer is cognate with "Guinevere"). What if all that information lay on the surface of language? I love the way a name like "Nighthorse" turns something very familiar (namely, the words "night" and "horse") into something strange and beautiful.