[FOUNTAIN]Playing the Name Game

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[FOUNTAIN]Playing the Name Game

A great principle of giving someone a name is to make sure that it can be easily pronounced and that it sounds right. If one overemphasizes the principle in creating a name, the name may sound a little awkward. Of course, a long time ago it was customary to give a child a name that was rather humble regardless of his or her status. This was because of the commonly held belief that a child with a humble name would live long and well.

The childhood name of Kojong, one of the kings in the Choson Dynasty, was Gaeddong, which means "dog poop," and the childhood name of Hwang Hi, a high-ranking official in the early Choson Dynasty, was Doyagi or "pig." When a man was born into an aristocratic family and became an adult and wore his hair in a knot, a traditional practice for an adult male of the Choson Dynasty, he received an official title or official name. In contrast, common people continued to use their childhood or aboriginal names without a family name. Gaeddong, Sodong and Madong, which all mean feces, were common. Some were named Jeongwoli because they were born in January; some were named Eokcheoki because they were tough; some were called Madangsoe, because they were born in a yard.

The Western world was not much different. In English-speaking regions, for many generations people in the fishing business were named Fisher. People from a family of carpenters were named Carpenter, and children in blacksmith family became Smith. In France, a child born in March was named Mars, and a child was named Leopard in the hope that he would be as brave as Leopard. If a father's name was John, his son's name was Johnson.

Nowadays, regardless of the hemisphere, the trend is to make pretty names, breaking away from traditions and customs. Beautiful, pure Korean names such as Areumnuri, Saeareum and Saenanseul account for more than 10 percent of names of newborns in Korea nowadays. For American-born babies, names like Jacob, Michael and Mathew are extremely popular. Nevertheless, there are still parents who visit professional name-creators. It is the hope of parents who believe good names will lead their children to a better future.

After the fraud case that involved Lee Yong-ho broke out, new names were mentioned each day in the news, all relating to the case. It became difficult to distinguish one name from another. There is an old saying that goes a tiger leaves his fur when it dies; a man leaves his name. Here, a name means fame. If leaving a dirty name is considered leaving a name, can the hope of parents already have been realized?

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok

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