(This blog is from our spring intern Cassie Davis)
This morning, John asked me an interesting question: “How did you get your name?” The short answer I shared is that my parents combined my grandmother’s name (Sandra) with my uncle’s (Cas) and dubbed me Cassandra, or Cassie for short. The ensuing conversation about the history and interconnectedness of a namesake got me thinking: what’s really in a name?
For some names, there’s a connection to family history. We all know a few people who are named after aunt June or uncle Dave, who have mish-mashed names like mine or variations of a relative or family name. The same concept applies to newlyweds who take on a new last name as a way of saying, “I’m part of this family unit now.” Being named after an esteemed relative or taking on a new last name has a certain weight and legacy to it, an inherent value meant to be passed down through generations.
For other names, the value is built up over time. Before she was famous, Oprah was just… Oprah. The same goes for Billy Graham, Obama, Adele, and a myriad of other well-known individuals. Though they were originally names like any other, certain monikers have developed value based on the contributions the holder made to society. In light of that change, the alias now represents something far beyond what the parents probably ever intended.
A business name can certainly have value as well. Consider the recent backlash against the NRA and how that affects the value of their name to the public, or the recent “fake news” situation discrediting the Miami Herald as a reliable news outlet. Bad press like this can have terrible effects on the worth of an organization’s name in society. On the flip side, major firearm retailers are working to show their care for our country by implementing new guidelines for weapon sales and Amazon is working to build customer trust with new methods of package delivery confirmation. Taking a stance for certain beliefs, solving customer problems, and handling discrepancies about reliability of service are all name-building opportunities for businesses of any size.
The underlying credibility of a name is based not only on origin, but on previous actions, statements, and work completed. Eventually, the names of people and companies of all levels of importance will develop a name in society that carries far more historical value than the linguistic meaning. The factors that develop a name simultaneously provide insight into important characteristics that individuals and businesses both need to maintain, such as reliability, honesty and ethical code.
So, what’s in your name? Whether defining your personal or business identity, this is a worthwhile question to ask. In many cases, there’s more meaning behind a series of letters than meets the eye.