What’s in a name? Romeo, or Shakespeare as the case may be, said: “A rose would still smell sweet”, but would it? Psychologists, behavioral scientists, technologists, me, and perhaps you too, are fascinated, either for intellectual or financial reasons, by names, and what those names compel us to do, think, and feel.
As a Business Development professional, I am well aware of the importance of remembering acquaintances names, of using my Clients names in conversation, as a tool to draw the listeners attention back to the subject at hand. I’ve stood in a room filled with hundreds of people, the din so loud that I could barely hear myself think, and yet miraculously, when my name is shouted from a football field away, I am instantly on alert, feverishly in tune to the call. Dale Carnegie’s famous statement ringing in my ear, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Is it possible that, our own name also sounds louder, that its significance to us is a survival mechanism of sorts?
I like to believe I am my own person. If we can’t be our own person, than the implications seem dire indeed, but I am not naive, I remain a mystery to myself most of the time. I do think that I am subject to The Implicit-Egotism Effect, which basically means we are drawn to people and things that resemble ourselves, which includes our name and our initials. It’s comforting, and got me thinking about Monograms and their popularity.
Monograms can be traced back to 350BC, and first appeared on coins. The Greeks, or the Romans or both were involved, as they so often were, talk about an ego – those guys take credit for everything. Then the royals got into the game, and everyone that wanted to be royal, had money, but no lineage, followed suit by putting their initials on everything they could embroider, emblazon, or embellish. The Guild, which was a Union of sorts, used Monograms as identifiers for their artists, sculptors, and craftspeople to ensure they were a legit member of the club. Now we are getting somewhere – everyone wants to belong, and to stake claim. It’s hard to claim something is yours if its initials don’t align with your own, which brings me to a bone I have to pick with my sister. Is it wrong of me to get annoyed when I see her pocket book, the three uniform letters, stamped in gold on her tan leather bag? Those initials belong to me, she doesn’t even have a middle name. Sisters. I wouldn’t really let the letter “A” get between us. How would I ever get to the rest of the lovely alphabet if l did something as silly as that?
Our need to belong, to stake claim, to feel important may be the very reason we warm to these interlinked letters. In the design world they appear everywhere. You might find them on a crest, your very own personal logo of sorts, stitched in brilliantly bold letters across a bolster pillow on your bed, or tucked into the corner of a linen napkin, in the tiniest font, a signal to the guests that their host has pride of place, and that something special their way comes.
Do I think that you can take it too far? That I do. Monograms can be made brass and garish. They can be used to intimidate – think the crest on a blazer, fitted for a member of a club for which Woody Alan wouldn’t want membership, or a home with nary a surface free of the three. I prefer them on the back of a Cartier Tank Watch, presented as a gift to me. How would you like yours served up?