Tom Walma


Names for Peace

CharityTom WalmaComment

I believe you cannot see a person as a full human being unless you can pronounce and remember their name.  

People often look at me like a monster when I say that, but I think it is an uncomfortable truth, and people should try harder to be open-minded enough to face uncomfortable truths.

But anyway, I think even the most kind person just cannot fully connect with someone to the same level as their core friends and loved ones if you cannot pronounce their name.  Humans think in language, and there is probably something hard-wired in the brain where until you give a person a title i.e. a name, it doesn't quite stick in the brain.  There will always be something foreign and distant in the relationship, until you really commit to learning the name, or they use a simpler nickname, or something like that.  

Celebrities know this, and they change their names often if they have difficult to pronounce Russian or Jewish names, for example.  

Not only does the "name barrier" make it harder for people to make positive connections, I think it also makes people easier to kill in wars or to ignore as far as charity is concerned.

So I think linguists should come up with lists of names that are easiest to pronounce in other languages, to help subconsciously grease the wheels of inter-cultural human interactions.  They don't have to obliterate cultural identity to do this.  For example, the name Boris is a very Russian name but is easy for English-language people to wrap our heads around, whereas Vyacheslav is extremely difficult for the English.