March 26, 2013

“A rose by any other name...”


“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) 
       British playwright and poet
       Famed lines spoken by Juliet in
Romeo and Juliet (c. 1591), Act II, Scene II
       In this great tragedy, Romeo and Juliet are
“star-crossed lovers” (a term Shakespeare coined in the play). Romeo’s family, the Montagues, are feuding with the Capulets, Juliet’s family. But Romeo and Juliet can’t help their mutual attraction and fall in love with each other.
       The rose metaphor comes in
the play’s famous balcony scene, in which Romeo sees Juliet standing on the balcony of her bedroom and overhears her saying she loves him, even though he is a Montague.
       She muses aloud: 
     “O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
           Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
           Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
           And I’ll no longer be a Capulet...
           ‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
           Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
           What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
           Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
           Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
           By any other name would smell as sweet;

           So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
           Retain that dear perfection which he owes
           Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
           And for that name which is no part of thee
           Take all myself.”
       According to legend, the lines about the smell of a rose were also an inside joke. The Rose Theatre in London was a rival of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Supposedly, the Rose’s bathroom facilities were quite odiferous and Shakespeare's mention of a smelly rose slyly poked fun at that. The excellent Phrase Finder site says this story is probably just creative folk etymology, but London tour guides like to use it to amuse tourists.


“There’s been a brouhaha on the Internet about the decision by the Associated Press to recognize same-sex couples and in news stories refer to a gay man’s spouse as ‘husband’ and a lesbian’s spouse ‘wife.’ Christian fundamentalist Marvin Olasky wrote that this action by the world’s leading wire service was not being neutral but was ‘endorsing same-sex marriage.’...Christians don’t have a copyright on the word ‘husband.’ What’s in a name, anyway? A Christian by any other name could still be petty and mean-spirited.”
Henry Denton, of Charleston, Utah (a beautiful corner of the Heber Valley) 
a letter to the editor Henry wrote to The Salt Lake Tribune, published March 26, 2013


“What’s in a name? That which we call Spam
By any other name would taste as lousy.”
       Satiric poem in
YANK magazine, January 14, 1944 
       Quoted in the book Minnesota Goes To War: The Home Front During World War II (2009)
       This take-off on Shakespeare, which was illustrated with the cartoon at left, was in an article complaining about the Spam “luncheon meat” that was regularly
included in K rations and B rations given to American GIs during World War II. The YANK article noted: “It’s not what they call it. It’s the frequency with which they throw it into your mess kit. Spam — sorry, we mean luncheon meat — might not be so bad if it was only served at luncheon. But when you get it at breakfast and supper, too, you can’t be blamed for getting mad at it.”


"At certain times you have to change to words you use to describe something. Change the interpretation of something, even though the essence is still the same. Like the word funk — we can use the word as long as we need to use the word, then we could just change it. But the rhythms would always go on being the same. Because funk by any other name would still be funky."
George Clinton
       American musician and music producer
       In an interview with Chip Stern, published in
Musician Magazine, April 1979


“A chrysanthemum by any other name would be easier to pronounce.”
Goldie Hawn
       American actress and founder of
The Hawn Foundation 
       In a comic bit
on the TV show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In (1968-1973)


“In real life, unlike in Shakespeare, the sweetness of the rose depends upon the name it bears. Things are not only what they are. They are, in very important respects, what they seem to be.”
       Hubert H. Humphrey (1911–1978)
       Democratic politician and U.S. Vice President
       In a
speech on March 26, 1966 in Washington, D.C.

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March 7, 2013

Things that concentrate the mind wonderfully…


“Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”
       Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
       British author, critic and lexicographer 
       Quoted by James Boswell in his Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)
       Johnson made the remark in regard to William Dodd, an
the Anglican clergyman Johnson had tried to save from being hanged in 1777. [Read the backstory about this quotation on This Day in Quotes.]


“Some wiseacre once said that the prospect of death concentrates the mind wonderfully, but I’m here to tell you that the chance to work for a reprieve concentrates it a whole heap more.” 
       George MacDonald Fraser (1925-2008) 
       English novelist
       One of many witty observations made by Fraser's epic cowardly hero, Harry Flashman. This quip comes from Flashman and the Angel of the Lord (1994), the tenth book in Fraser’s popular Flashman series.


“Death not only concentrates the mind, it concentrates us on our minds. It was the notion of the immortal soul that allowed us to focus on our own minds as transcendent objects, even if it no longer seems obvious that they will, indeed, survive death.”
       Alan F. Segal (1945-2011)
       American professor of religion   
       In his book Life After Death: A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion (2004)


“Sex also concentrates the mind wonderfully and that is why civilized man is so obsessed by it.”
       Howard F. Dossor
       UK writer and critic
       In his book Colin Wilson: The Man and His Mind (1990)


“A deadline has a wonderful way of concentrating the mind.”
       The character Professor Moriarity (actor Daniel Davis)
       In the “Ship in a Bottle” episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (Season 6, Ep. 12, first aired in 1993). Moriarity says this after telling Captain Picard he would destroy the Enterprise unless he is changed
from being a computer-generated character in the ship’s Holodeck system into a real living being.


“About 8.00 get up, do a half hour of voice exercises, soak in the bath and read a little Pirsig, which concentrates the mind wonderfully.”
       Michael Palin
       English comedian, actor, writer, television presenter and Monty Python member 
       Referring to Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), in his book Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years (2008)

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