What’s in a name?

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

William Shakespeare

If Shakespeare’s idea is that names don’t define us in any way, why do we spend so much time trying to pick the right name for our kids, pets, and in this case, a boat? The more likely answer is that names matter. A few years ago, researchers published a study demonstrating that on some level one’s name can alter how one’s face looks because over time we tend to conform a bit to social stereotypes. What do you imagine a “Bob” to look like versus a “James?” What about a “Mary” versus a “Stacy?” And why have we landed on the ubiquitous “Karen” when referring to a middle-aged white woman who is acting entitled? Why not a “Mandy?”

The study noted this phenomenon and named it the Dorian Gray Effect after the eponymous character from Oscar Wilde’s novel whose portrait changed in response to the character’s self-indulgent lifestyle. Researchers noted people were able to correctly guess a random person’s name more often than would be expected with chance alone. I wonder if I would look a bit different if I would have been named Julia (my mother’s choice) instead of Vanessa (my father’s choice)?

Shakespeare was perhaps shortsighted in his observation that names don’t matter. Perhaps they shouldn’t, but they do.

What’s in a boat name then? Would we sail her differently if she was given a different name? Maybe. Maybe not. Ed and I spent a few months tossing around boat names even before we knew exactly what boat we wanted. We went through some punny lawyer names, aviation themed names, names that reflected Ed’s previous business in some way, and even a few we thought were just good boat names. Most of the names we came up with reflected where we had been rather than where we were going or what we were seeking. We decided the boat’s name should reflect the latter. We finally settled on:

Serenity

We think this name reflects that both Ed and I are seeking some peace and calmness in our lives. It’s also partly inspired by one of my favorite TV shows–Seinfeld.

We might also find ourselves screaming this as we start digging into our long list of maintenance items we have to tackle. We are headed back to Florida next week to start cleaning her up, sailing her to Fort Lauderdale, and getting the first round of repairs done. Wish us “Serenity Now!” as we start off on the first of many adventures!

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