Sunday, January 06, 2013

What's in a name?

“What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet;” So mused Juliet about her Romeo in the William Shakespeare’s best known play. And we all know how badly that ended for the heroine and her beau. 

The importance of names came home to me recently from the naming of the tropical cyclones that ravage the Philippines in general and Bopha/Pablo in particular. For some reason that I have been unable to fathom the Philippines has their own list of names for these oft devastating events that are applied once they come under auspices of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.  The international name is scrapped and a new name applied and used locally whilst the rest of the world continues to use the original name.

For my sister, who lives in Australia, the Philippines has come onto her radar since her baby brother became a resident. She heard about the devastation wrought by Tropical Cyclone Bopha and she decided she would like to help out. Her visit to the Philippine Red Cross website was unhelpful as there was no mention of Tropical Cyclone Bopha although there were quite a few mentions of a Tropical Cyclone Pablo, about which she knew nothing. 

One cannot help but wonder if the same confusion could be hampering the United Nations $65 million global appeal which was recently reported as struggling with only $12 million odd having been raised. With the Philippines having a world wide reputation for corruption, having two names for the same event does little to instill confidence.

The Shakespearean phrase, in its misquoted version, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet", is often used to argue for the lack of importance in the naming of things whereas the original, when read in context, is a rhetorical device used to argue for their importance. For the sake of clarity it may well behoove the Philippines to swallow its national pride and join the rest of world for tropical cyclone nomenclature.

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