What’s in a Name?

I was discharged in Memphis so, for a short time afterword, that is where my wife and I lived. We just had one car between us and neither of us had a job. Then I got on at a fast food place. This put my wife in a predicament. She had an appointment at Baptist Memorial and was not at all familiar with the area. Not only that, she had been driving for a little over a year.

If I could have, I would have taken her, but, given as I just got my job, I figured I’d better show up for work. So, the day before the appointment, I drove the route with her and it was pretty simple. All she really needed to do was drive straight west on North parkway to Pauline and turn left(south). The parking lot for the hospital was on Pauline.

Well she got lost. She went all over downtown and midtown Memphis and, a couple of times caught herself on the newer bridge on the way to Arkansas. She did eventually find her way after stopping a couple of times for directions.

Afterword, she told me about it. She said if she got on that bridge one more time, she would just go on to to Fort Smith, where she grew up. It confused me enormously. As I said, I drove the route the day before and was certain of the instructions.

So, when I had a chance, I drove the route again, with her in the car. When i got to Pauline, I made the turn, and right there was the hospital. She was very animate about it. She said that she looked very closely and Pauline was not there the day before.

I went back to the intersection and looked more closely. It was true. On the south side of North Parkway, it was Pauline. On the North side it was some other name, I can’t ever remember what. Had she looked at the street sign on the south side, she would have made the turn and it would have been fine. Since she looked at the one on the north side, she continued west and toward the bridge.

Sometimes these people try to confuse us drivers with tricks like this. I don’t have the foggiest idea why. One day in Yuma I looked for a theater that had an address on Second Street. I looked for hours for it. I gave up and started walking toward the downtown, figuring there would be something there. There was. I soon found myself on the corner of Second Street and 2nd Street. There was also a First Street and 1st Street.

That’s right. If you ever go to Yuma, you might remember that. The ordinals are used one direction. The other way they spell them out. I don’t remember which. At any rate, I got to see most of Yuma that day…while on foot. The one good part, it was winter and the temperature was mild.

My name is Benjamin Franklin Rhodes. I was named after my grandfather, not the founding father of of the Keystone State. I don’t know, but I would guess that, somewhere in my ancestry, someone was likely name named for old Ben. None the less, I have had my share of nicknames. Most of my youth I was called Benny. One or two have called me Benji. A few have called me Dusty and once or twice I was even called Frankie. None of it bothered me much, but I decided in my late youth to that I preferred Ben. While I went by Benny, there were frequently people that spelled it Bennie, not my favorite.

We humans put quite a lot in names. Some people get really upset if you call them by the wrong name. I never have and never will. To me it isn’t that big a deal. It did confuse me some when one guy called me Barney, mostly because I didn’t know he was talking to me.

None the less, we give names to many things, roads, cities, counties states and countries. We give names to people, places, and things. We give names to streams, rivers, lakes and oceans. It is, I suppose so that we can tell one from another. No one would think to create a civilization where we identify people by numbers instead of names. Well, I guess we do have Social Security Numbers, but can you imagine calling each other by number that is nine digits long. Even then we would still have names. Each of us would have a unique number that we would be known by. Of note: the number method would make things easier on computer. Not so much for us humans.

Nonetheless, we have chosen to use names. There are over 7 billion people in this world and each of us has a name. When you add in those that are no longer living, that is a bunch of names. It is sort of odd in a way. The street that my wife looked for that day was likely named after a woman.

We do a lot of that. Some streets have women’s names and some men’s. In Fort Smith, there are several streets that are named for WWII heroes. In some cases, there are streets named for battles. We used to name battleships for states. Subs were named mostly for cities, and so forth. Nowadays, you don’t get an aircraft named after you unless you lived in The White House for a while. Yet the first nuclear carrier was named for a WWII carrier, Enterprise. I have no idea what prompted the original carrier’s name.

Maybe to keep the confusion down, we ought not change names too much. Can you imagine if the navy kept changing the names of ships. Also, in order to understand each other, maybe we shouldn’t keep changing the meanings of words just to fit our purpose. I mean, when a person says infrastructure, he really ought to mean infrastructure. There is already enough confusion in this world.

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