Tag Archives: language

Hello, my name is Marissa. But you can call me…


-Marissa Tomko

Of the sea.

That’s what my first name means.  Not only is it a little weird due to its non-standard pronunciation (muh-REE-suh), but I happen to want to be a fish. That my name has to do with water thrills me. Is it a coincidence? Probably. But I would like to think otherwise.

My best friend is obsessed with tiaras. She always has a bow in her hair, and her birthday is a month long event in which she shamelessly commands our friend group to wait on her hand-and foot—charmingly of course. She’s a princess, aptly named. She answers to Sarah.

My most normal roommate is named Erin, a name which means peace, and is associated with Ireland. This surprised me until I realized that Erin happens to love a good drink and is always the balancing variable in our house. She is a peacemaker if I ever met one.

The point that I’m trying to make is that I believe our names define a large part of who we are. Of course, the definition of everybody’s name does not match them perfectly. But to what extent do our names decide our lives?

According to The Week, names have more of an impact than we realize. It notes research that says there are more dentists named Dennis than is proportionately normal. Personally, I associate dentists with the Hermey’s of the world, but I realize that not everyone believes in elves.

Does having an unique name make you unique? Maybe. But not because your name might be something cool, like Seawillow. (I went to high school with a girl named that. She ruled.) Live Science theorizes that a unique name given by parents is just another symbol of their parenting styles. If a kid’s parents wants him or her to be different, the name is not going to be the reason for success. Chances are, those are the parents that are going to raise their child in a way that cultivates an off-beat outlook on life.

Some names aren’t unheard of. In fact, we hear some of them so much that we might start to develop stereotypes surrounding them. Christine’s (or Kristine’s) are always the voice of reason in my life dramas. The Matt’s I meet are all like my brother—goofy, laid back, and the person everyone wants to be friends with. Don’t want to take my word for it? Check out this thread on Reddit that recently blew up. Matt’s are described as awesome and likable, and the sketchiest people I have encountered are also sketchy to the rest of Internetland—I am not alone!

Associations with names are not just serendipitous; The Week notes that they have the ability to tell the world about our ethnicity, education, and class. Case in point: my name is pronounced the way it is because my Mexican grandmother’s accent deemed it so. Holler at my culture.

There are lots of names out there. How do parents choose just one?! No matter what yours is, I just have one request: have a sweet signature. Nothing is more attractive than a sweet signature.

Image by Alan O’Rourke.

Having Fun in the Pun

Angry Writing Utensil

-Marissa Tomko

In drafting this story, I started by taking notes on paper. But then my pencil broke, which was no good. To write with a broken pencil is pointless. So I went in search for a new one, but it was hard because I was feeling very confused. After all, I feel like we’ve all asked the question: 2B or not 2B?

I’m willing to bet most people have already stopped reading this because they hate puns so much. For those of you who haven’t, thank you! You are among the chosen few who appreciate this form of humor as much as I do!

As it turns out, puns have a long history. According to NPR, they date back to the seventh century BC, if not further. While most big languages have puns, English is one of the lucky few that is particularly punny. This is thought to be due to the fact that the language pulls from so many others, giving it a rather extensive vocabulary.

Another language word magicians would have pun with? Sanskrit. Former presidential speechwriter for Bill Clinton, John Pollack, says there’s a good chance that the word “pun” came from the language. In Sanskrit, “pundit” means someone who explains ambiguous situations, and there’s a good chance “pun” comes from the same root.

In an interview with NPR, Pollack gave an explanation as to what gives this kind of joke power, or PUNch if you will. It can be found both in the ambiguity of the wordplay and in its ability to build up more than one meaning into a phrase with fewer words.

For those of you who are looking to take puns to the next level, you might consider trying your luck at the annual O. Henry Pun-Off, where contestants pun away stand-up style!

If these jokes still make you wrinkle your nose like you smelled something pungent, calm down. Take a deep breath. And get some acuPUNcture. I hear it’s great for stress relief.