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What’s In a Name?

Every painting wants a name, I feel. How would you like to go your whole life known (and I use the term loosely) as Untitled? I don’t think you would. I know I wouldn’t! After all we’ve been through together, that painting and I, it seems rather unseemly to leave it an orphan, without a name to be remembered by. Rather like leaving a child unnamed. I just cannot do it. To that end, I have wracked my brain to title all of my paintings for my upcoming solo show.

I am aware that I’ve put mountains of perhaps undue import on this. I do intend to make many more paintings before the jig is up. It’s not like these are the last paintings I’ll ever make. It’s not the same as having that last baby and struggling to choose the perfect name for him, since you know he will be the last, i.e., Oliver. My sons have, in order of age, one- two- and three-syllable names that are perfect (not to brag) and that go together perfectly, I feel. Cole, Peter, Oliver. Unique but not weird. Backwards, if you want weird (or Elven)–Eloc, Retep, and Revilo.

Still, being a word person, I have wanted these paintings to have wonderful names, and the show itself to have an auspicious name. I wrote many pages of ideas, exploring various themes. I wrote them in bed, while watching the world come awake. I wrote them on the couch, in the company of my dogs. I wrote them at my desk. I pored over them, consulting the dictionary and the Thesaurus again and again, reconsidering them at various points. I contemplated some of my favorite odd words, such as malarkey, hullaballoo, panjandrum. Musical terms, Tarot words, portmanteaus from Alice in Wonderland, nature terms, nautical terms, place names, on and on. The world of words is my oyster. Possibilities are endless.

Finally, the deed is done! The paintings are named, the babies are put to bed, the names have been sent off to the lovely gal in charge of the whole shebang. The show’s title, “Course Made Good,” has a nautical meaning. If you come to the show or view it online (both of these coming soon), you’ll see. Or you can look it up! It struck me as relevant to my life.

What, exactly, is in a name? Loads. A world. A person. An idea.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” ― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

“I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I’ve never been able to believe it. I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

“Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. If you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. And if someone forwarded this one to you, you can sign up here to receive the letters right in your Inbox. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.

Thanks for listening,

P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”