When you live in the United States and your name is Socrates, it is fairly easy to infer that you will effortlessly gain a widespread reputation; sometimes without doing anything close to significant. As much pretentious and arrogant that might sound, it is true. I can tell you from first hand that people start drooling whenever they hear an exotic name which IS NOT something like “MacDonald-Berger, Moe Lester, Batman Bin Superman, or Tyrannosaurus Rex Miller.” If you want your child to hate your soul for as long as it lives, then you can name it that. No, I’m referring to Greek or other European exotic names such as “Luciana, Lorenzo, Odysseus and Marcelo” which simply sound way cooler than “Bob, Jake or Tim” despite their actual meaning (Marcelo means “hammer” in Latin fyi.) So, let’s get down to it.
No, Socrates was not a “Greek God” or an “ancient warrior dude” or a “sick Roman name” (Believe me, I’ve heard all of that), he was simply a philosopher… Or my grandfather in this case. Amongst the many traditions and weird customs we have In Greece, there is an “honorary tradition” of naming your kid after its grandfather or grandmother… But that’s only if you want to do it so it’s not really a tradition. Well, now that I think about it it’s probably more like an “I’-don’t-know-what-the-heck-to-name-my-kid” tradition so they just go on and give it their dads’ or mom’s unthoughtful name. Now I feel bad… Whatever, my name is Socrates so I really don’t care.
One of the best things of having a Greek name is giving a little Greek language lecture to whomever is unfortunate enough to ask. Ready? So the name “Socrates” was derived from σώος (sos) which means “whole, unhurt or safe” and κράτος (kratos) which means “power”. Now Kanetakis, which is my last name, derives from “kaneti” which means “thin” in Latin. Funny how the actual Socrates was fat… When my ancestors migrated to Crete, my island of origin, they added “akis” to their last name; a local ending for last names, exclusive for the islanders. My family members all have beautiful ancient names such as my brother Jason, a mythical Greek hero, my sister Themis, the goddess of justice, my mother Klelia, a roman legend and finally my father George, named after his grandpa.
My mother had considered other names for me such as Kritonas or Harris but none of them overcame my dad’s determination for me to have his father’s name. My nicknames vary depending on the country, in Greece they call me “sok” and here they call me either “soca”, “sock”, “dirty sock” “sock-rat-teas”, “shock”, “suck-at-(fill in the blank)” or simply “Socrates”. People tend to be a bit more creative here…
I love my name, I would never wish to be named something else and there is absolutely no doubt about it. Despite from the obvious social advantages of having your IQ instantly boosted by 100000%, being a philosophy expertise and not having to worry if people will remember my name are all greatly appreciated. But there is a drawback. Take that away from me and who am I? Say that we all had numbers instead of names, would my number 6.176.437.869 and all of what I did or said be remembered as much as without having a memorable name? I highly doubt that. I feel bad whenever I say something smart and the reason behind it most of the time is “because you’re Socrates” and whatever smart I do is also “because you’re Socrates”. Some say that that’s awesome and I should run for president even though I was not born in the states and I don’t even have a green card (relax, I have a visa). And when I actually say something or do something smart and take credit for it, I don’t owe that to my name, I owe it to my anonymous mass of blood, flesh, bones and billions of deoxyribonucleic acid particles. It is way easier to stereotype though…
Names are something more than just tags to recognize and call people; they are part of our identity due to the way a name sounds or what emotions it conveys. There is an emotional attachment with every name, for example; when you hear your mom’s name you will most likely think about her and either have an overwhelming feeling of love and tenderness or a horrific recollection of her yelling while chasing you with a shoe. Plus, the history that a name carries can play a significant role in a person’s life, just like mine did. The feeling of need to live up to one’s name or the impact that a person makes to a name is undoubtedly effective. For example, the name “Adolf” has almost been unused since WW2. Coincidence? And from the other hand, in 20 years from now I’m pretty sure that we will witness a cataclysm of baby girls named “Elsa.” It is not coincidental that in orthodox countries most, if not all, names have a name-day in which a saint’s name is celebrated including all people whose name is the same as that saint’s. This celebration might not be as important as birthdays but it shows that names and people who have made them great should be respected and at least remembered. As much as “Quindarious Gooch” sounds like a memorable name, it does not live up to something and if it doesn’t, it will most likely fade away in the countless google searches for “hilarious names.”
Now, to recapitulate. A name means nothing unless you make it memorable, your name could be as simple as Michael Jackson and you could be the king of pop, or it could be something more extravagant like Whet Faartz, and be… well, you get the idea. If in 470 B.C there wasn’t a philosopher named Socrates who lived and died for spreading philosophical ideas which radically changed the Western’s worlds perception of “knowing one’s self”, my name could have been as significant as “Eric”. And if we were to really place a value on names, we would focus on the last names since those are the ones that carry a family’s history across the ages and are quite often beneficial in both personal and business endeavors. One’s actions built up one’s persona, not his thoughts, not his beliefs and definitely not his name. A good name would be very appreciated though.