January 01, 1997

What's in a Name?

What's in a Name?

Astrologists claim that first names can have an impact on people’s destinies: a Victor will always be victorious, a Yevgeny noble, etc. Hardcore Marxists preaching the priority of the material over the spiritual might disagree, but sometimes common sense is a factor too.

After all, the most ardent of these materialists baptized their children with names like Vladlen, Ninel or Marlen. Now in their late seventies, the persons carrying these names probably regret their parents’ hasty decisions. Why? Because they are no longer “on the side of history,” so to speak. Vladlen, which at first simply sounds corny, is actually an acronym for Vladimir Lenin. The girl’s name Ninel, as you can probably guess, is just ‘Lenin’ spelled backwards, and Marlen? Marx and Lenin, of course.

So, using more traditional first names may seem much safer. But is it really? The Russian language, as the writer Ivan Turgenev rightly pointed out, is so “great and mighty,” that it can turn the most innocuous linguistic term upside down and make a mockery of it.

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