names

The Name Of The Cloud That Ate The Sun

In the ages of yore, a sky ogre, becoming jealous of the day, transformed himself into a great cloud and, gliding stealthily through the high air, swallowed the sun whole. As he slowly digested the heavenly orb, the Earth below became dark and dismal until nighttime seemed to reign the hours in perpetuity.

The men of Earth, fearing for their futures, sent an emissary to appease the cloud and plead that he might release the sun, if only for part of the time.

“And what shall I receive in return?”, demanded the cloud.

The emissary thought hard for a while until a notion occurred to him and he said,

“If you allow the sun’s release for part of the day, we will honour your name in a great book made exclusively for this purpose.”

The cloud considered the offer for a moment and then asked, curiously, “What name?”

The question shocked the emissary as he hadn’t an answer to hand, but he wasn’t anything if not quick of mind, and so he explained,

“Is any name enough for one as eminent as yourself, sir? Surely, we would honour you with many names, each befitting your many natures: there shall be high Cirrus, and broad Altostratus, and elegant Cumulus, and bold Cumulonimbus, and…”

“Wait!”, screamed the cloud, “What are you suggesting? Those…names!”

“Do they not please, sir?”, asked the emissary growing nervous. “Are they not honourable enough”

The cloud curled itself around, self-consciously, and grew slightly redder.

“Well,”, it said, “I was thinking…. of some names…. a bit like Sith, or Neff, or Porr. Something like those. Memorable names; simple ones as the sun, the sky, and the moon have!”

The emissary thought hard and fast.

“But, your honour, are you not greater than the sun you’ve consumed? And as for the moon, well… An eminence as yourself, my lord, deserves the greatest of names, the longest of names, and, clearly, the most obtuse of names, to be both scholarly and divine.”

The cloud considered this and, growing increasingly flattered, finally agreed and spat out the sun into a clear portion of blue sky. It then regarded the emissary below,

“Go on then, man, go and write the book!,” he insisted.

And so the great book was bound and the many names inscribed therein and that is why few men remember, or even know, the names of clouds now, whereas even a child knows the sun, the sky and the moon. Yet a deal has been made and is appropriately honoured, and the sun is set free for some of the day, or until the cloud deems it is time enough and devours it some more.

(448 words)


Written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto prompt.

photo provided by Sue Vincent.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet;” said Shakespeare through Juliette.

I am, it seems, still stuck on the issue of the naming of things. If, I wonder, a rose was called a pig, would it smell as sweet? The subjectiveness of taste, the prejudice of association, the scepticism in the face of a simple truth – who knows? Maybe the pig would become the ideal house pet.

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The Naming of Things

Imagine the sun rising, an bright, early dawn, in the garden at Eden. Adam rolling to his right side to lean on one elbow, the back of the hand on his other arm coming up to rub the sleepy dust from his eyes, blinking towards the divine yellow light. In a moment, he jumps up.

“Eve, where are my clean fig leaves?”

Eve, already in the midst of making the first brew, calls back,

“In the airing cupboard, dear!”

It’s another big day ahead, another commission of naming things. It’s hopelessly random; up until yesterday, Adam had to confront Eve with a mime for fig leaf. Leaf turned out to be a cinch but fig, for some reason, caused much hilarity which reduced Eve to tears, entirely down to the fruit’s similarity to the parts of Adam which differentiated him from her. And so fig and leaf had to be summarily named.

Today, for a change, he would name some of the things which stayed put: immobile, stationary, inanimate, and inert. Of course, such words as those would be as alien to him as discombobulation would be to a child, but the sense of it is understood. Intellect precedes language. In fact, were it not for Eve, he needn’t bother with the task of naming stuff at all; he knew what he meant without words, and a leaf is a leaf is a leaf.

(234 words)


Written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto prompt.

I was also inspired by the following quote,

“Finding the words is another step in learning to see”

This is from an article in Brain Pickings on the book, Gathering Moss, by bryologist, Robin Wall Kimmerer and on how she believes naming confers dignity upon life.

“Bryologist” was a word unknown to me and the significance for me is that as a young child, mosses fascinated me. I used to collect them and study their forms under a small optical microscope I had asked Father Christmas for. All that time and I hadn’t known there was a name for what I could have become had it not been for the distractions of teen culture and girls.

The resemblance of the fruit of the fig to both man and woman body parts is a well established one, I believe.

What’s that word?

I suppose the analogy between mind and machinery is an old one. I think I blogged previously about “grinding gears” when something irritates. If you search for images which represent the thinking process, there are loads which show a cartoon silhouette of a head surrounding interconnecting clockwork cogs.

It’s like that now as I am failing to remember a word and it’s as if a spanner has been thrust into the machinery; everything seems jammed up; I can’t even let it go, it’s only by remembering the word that the machinery can be freed to work again.

Actually, to conflate the metaphor, it’s as if I can imagine the very word I’m after tangled in a web, much like a spider’s meal cocooned in silk. Or, to use the biblical, a thing seen through a glass, darkly. I imagine I can reach out and touch it, it’s so close but…

One of the things with working freelance is I get to move about different companies and, with luck, return to previous ones. Then I might be welcomed by a face I know, and they plainly know me well, but for the life of me I can’t put a name to the face. If I can survive that moment without needing to use their name, the first thing I’ll do is hit the company intranet and look up the list of names in the email contacts file, hoping the bell will ring.

If I’m out and about, or in the car, and a face comes to mind but no name – this might be someone I know personally or an actor, or musician, or any face really – I always resort to the alphabet trick. I begin to visualise the face with the letter A and if it still looks blank, move on to letter B. And so on. Usually, before I get to X, Y and Z, the letter and face click into place, like a key opening a lock, or a clock’s escapement turning a cog hand a notch.

While writing this, I remember how some people describe it as reaching for a word, as if they’re picking out a book from a too high shelf. Though I think these are probably wordy people to begin with. I admit it here that vocabulary has been my Achille’s Heel for too long.

Nope, still cannot get to that word! Grrrrind.

You say tomato, I say tomato

Thank you, George and Ira Gershwin. We’ll be in touch….

I see food blogging is immensely popular, and why not? Who doesn’t love food? I have thought about blogging on the subject myself but the competition is too great, plus I always forget to take a photo while I’m cooking.

After visiting some food blogs just now, I thought it interesting how two English speaking nations (maybe more than two) came to have different words for the same ingredient. These are not regional peculiarities, which do exist within a single nation, but generalised words.

Like Zucchini and Courgette. In the UK, it’s the French sounding word we go for, but the Americans prefer the Italian version. Maybe they were made an offer they couldn’t refuse.

Scallions, I actually like better than Spring Onions. I think its origin is Greek, so maybe there’s an immigrant influence there. And also Green Onions – same vegetable, I think, and who doesn’t get up with it on hearing the opening bars of that Booker T & The MGs tune?

Egg Plant. What! Sorry, the romantic hint of Aubergine does it for me every time.

Cilantro. This one puzzled me for a long while. It’s Coriander, folks. Neighbours, eh? The Americans can thank theirs, the Mexicans, while we thank ours, the old French again.

English Muffin. Now this is nice. Here, in England, we just call them Muffins. Though the Welsh, Irish and Scots might have a word about the English part. Besides, I believe they’re actually German.

Still, a rose by any other name would taste as good.

What’s in a name?

The name of the Gentleman’s Gazette guy from the previous post has intrigued me since I first typed it out.

Sven Raphael Schneider. What a cosmopolitan collection! Scandinavian-Mediterranean-Germanic. I was interested to discover the meanings of each;

Sven, Old Norse for young warrior. Our man in question hasn’t the years to be regarded as a fashion guru. But a style warrior? – it’s possible.

Raphael is Biblical. One of the archangels, his name means God heals. Raphael is the healing angel.

Schneider is German for tailor. “What!”, I almost hear you say. How appropriate is that? A warrior healing tailor, asserting sartorial advice, I’m starting to think he may have made the whole name up himself.

I can’t object. Bladud Fleas is a name I made for myself; a writing pseudonym or pen name, like George Orwell or Mark Twain. It’s explained in the About pages in the menu, if you’re interested.

For a long time, way before this blog, I wondered if everyone should have the chance to adopt a name of their own choosing, maybe just before adulthood. I’ve known many folk who wished for a different name to go by. Some go by a pet name or nickname, some prefer their second given name to their first, and some go through the trouble of changing their name officially by legal means. I’ve thought about this and couldn’t decide what on Earth I would call myself which was meaningful yet unpretentious.

There’s that old party game where you come up with a stage name by combining the name of your first pet animal with the name of the street or road you first lived in. Twinkles Grosvenor, Butch Acacia, or Flopsy-Tail East Cheam High. That sort of thing.

Maybe the problem, if there is a problem, is the vastness of possibilities to naming. When in Bali, we were astonished that there were traditionally only a few choices of given names. Not only that but they were given to children in a set order, according to birth. We learnt this from our host, Katut, a young entrepreneur who ran some hostels and holiday lets. His uncle, also Katut, did the laundry and prepared breakfast, and our host had a younger sister also called Katut – naming is also gender neutral.

Balinese names explained

Recalling the discussions we had when expecting our children, and the unguarded opinions of others, there might be a lot of merit in the Balinese method.

When all’s said and done, I think people eventually grow into their names, and if they don’t, well, no system is going to change that. You can’t please every Tom, Dick and Harriet.

Thinking about…

Our Names

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

(Romeo and Juliet)

One of the worst things – or best things? – you might have to do is share a name with someone more famous than you. You will forever be subordinate to that person in a Google search.

Luckily, this hasn’t applied to me yet.

Whilst at college, a tutor of senior years once complimented me on my unusual and (likely, he thought) unique moniker. He is the only person I know to have done that. At the time I would have been happier with an ordinary, ubiquitous, well-used alternative. The only thing which stopped me was arriving at what it should be instead of what it is. Yeah, names are important.