"What's in a Name?" An Excursus

Romeo and Juliet by Annie Leibovitz

Romeo and Juliet by Annie Leibovitz

As many might know, the title of this blog post is a quote from Shakespeare.  The full quote is, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."  It's from his famous work, Romeo and Juliet, and was spoken by Juliet.  She was in love with Romeo, but alas, he was a Montague and she was a Capulet.  Think Hatfields and McCoys here.  And so, upon reflection, she thinks about the mismatch between her lover's name, those despised three syllables, and what he truly is: her beloved boo.  This kind of reflection is wise for any two people considering the age old venture of becoming one flesh.  What matters is the person, not the pronunciation.  What matters is the thing, not the moniker.  Or more broadly, what's important is the concept, not the tag or label.

It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to
— W.C. Fields

Who could really disagree with Juliet here?  But I do think that there are times when we make the opposite mistake and underestimate words.  Words are undervalued when we think of them as mere tags or pointers, divorcing them from what they represent.  I'm sure you've been hurt by words in your life, and if so, you know that those scars often last longer than the ones forged in our flesh.  Strings of words, what we label sentences, are visual things that mysteriously trigger our minds to recall or reflect through propositions.  In any two cultures, languages may vary, but there can still be a unity of mind, even if not communication, if the two parties think the same pertinent propositions. "The dog is black" equals "Le chien est noir", not as sentences, but propositionally.

Orwell's 1984

Orwell's 1984

The importance of the proper use of words has been noted in various works of literature: most notably in Orwell's 1984.  Therein lies the dangerous use of doublespeak for purely propagandist political purposes...how's that for a tongue twister?! The point being, when the meaning of words are in rapid flux, especially in the halls of governance and the State, trouble's a comin'!

And yet this is not a political blog nor one centering on the philosophy of language, so what gives?  I wanted to take an excursion and briefly explain the naming of my website: WILDNESS & ARTifice.  Most obviously, the title is trying to capture what I'm trying to share.  The former being a slice of the natural world in its wildness.  And the latter, artifice, primarily indicative of man's cunning ingenuity as evidenced in city, over against garden.  I hope this made pretty clear in the galleries associated with each of these concepts.

But lesser known, if at all, is where and the world I got the phrase in the first place.  And so now, I bare my soul prostrate before you...don't trounce it please.  It's origin is from the A&E/BBC version of Pride and Prejudice.  As far as I can tell it's not in the book for the purists out there.  The phrase occurs at the point when the Gardiners accompany Elizabeth on her visit to Mr. Darby's estate, Pemberley.  Mr. Gardiner, upon seeing the beauty of the area and making the turn toward, the almost hidden, Pemberley says, "Nature and culture in harmony, you see, Lizzy.  Wildness and artifice, and all in the one perfect county!"

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter
— יְשַׁעְיָה

Boom! So many years ago, having seen that show, the germ was placed, watered, and now has sprouted.  Hopefully, after perusing the grounds of Deesshire for a while, you can say, in concert with Mr. Gardiner, "Dang! WILDNESS & ARTifice, and all in one perfect website!"  Drop the mike!