Friday, July 5, 2013

Living West

The Kardashian-West’s new baby girl is going to be named North.  It’s not a terrible name, all things considered.  If we see it as just a name made up of letters and take away the meaning first, it checks out decent.  A lot of solid ladies names start with N.  Nora, Nell (or Nellie), Nina, Natasha, Nancy, Naomi.  But we can’t ignore that it is a cardinal direction as well.  If I had to choose a direction for a first name, I think North would probably be the best one.[i]  I also think West is among the two best directions for a last name, but more on that later.
                The concept of North started out as a very arbitrary one.  It refers to the top of the globe at this point, but started with its origins in a time when the earth was thought to be flat.  The first real cartographers were Europeans[ii].  That is to say, the ones we have most been influenced by today.  And fortunately they were also explorers, because they lived by the sea and because they needed more room to contain their growing population.  They looked in the direction the sun rose from and saw a lot of land, but which had people on it.  Then they looked toward where the sun set, saw a lot of ocean, a lot of open space that was relatively easy to navigate, and which they could pass through without having to pay tribute or encounter enemies[iii]- and they decided that whatever land they found they were going to claim.  And during all of this, they were plotting out their courses and making maps.
                But where to put their starting point, aka Europe?  Scientists have figured out that the human eye, when reading anything (which by our nature was evolutionarily predetermined) our eyes are drawn top to bottom and left to right, in that order.  So it was the most logical and inevitable for the early mapmakers to put their homelands on top of these flat representations of the world they were creating.  They would just be easier to read that way.  And by virtue of putting Europe on top of the map, they put most everything else below it and to the right.  Right, the secondary direction the eye is drawn, was given to the first lands they knew for sure existed, besides their own, because of their proximity.  It has come to be understood, however, that the Europeans put themselves on top of the world because they thought they were the best.  I’m starting to think this to not be the primary reason, though North has now come to signify an improvement in relative position.
                It would be hard for the West’s new child to go any further North, in many ways- except, in many people’s opinion, in the name department.  I, however, disagree given this couple’s constant striving for success, hopefully one that they pass on to their daughter.  But I wouldn’t blame her, after she grows up and realizes the incredible circus she’s been born into, if she wants to, idiomatically speaking, head West.

[i] I once played the “I’m going to Hollywood” name changing game, which in this case was Your Middle Name + The Street You Grew Up On.  Mine came out Kenneth South (Numbers don’t play well in Hollywood).
[ii] Coulda been the Chinese, even, but let’s ignore that for once.
[iii] Eventually pirates came around to correct this market inefficiency. (Not ninjas)

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