Personal Names

The first question that anybody asks about a new language is, of course, "How do I write my name?"

My name should be pretty easy to translate into a symbolic language. My family name is a common word, and my given name is popular saint. (Just like George Bush.) We can represent "White" with the ideogram of the color, using two objects which epitomize whiteness (snow and lily) to describe a third object which epitomizes whiteness (me). For "Matthew", we'll dig back into its Hebrew origins until we get to mattithyah, meaning "God's gift". Unfortunately, Matthew isn't the only name meaning "God's gift". We've got Theodore, Dorothy, Nathaniel, Jonathan and Godiva, so unless I want to go through life pretending to be the author of The Making of the President or The Once and Future King, or riding naked through the streets of Coventry (and haven't the people of Coventry suffered enough already?), I had better find a way to differentiate Matthew from Godiva.

In Christian iconography, the four evangelists are illustrated with four mythical creatures. The symbol of St. Mark is the winged lion (very cool), while St. Luke is symbolized by a winged bull (just as cool). By the time they got to St. John, they were clearly running out of ideas, so they just used a winged eagle -- not exactly mythical, that one. St. Matthew's symbol is just a winged guy, an angel. I would have prefered a great soaring moose or something, but we'll go with what we've got.

Let's put a little marker () underneath to show it's a name, and not just any old white gift of God.

There I am: Matthew White. It all looks so Christmassy. The only confusion would be whether the glyphs should be translated into English (Matthew White) or Italian (Mateo Bianco) or Russian (Matvei Belov) or some multilingual hybrid (like Matt LeBlanc or Mateus White).

Of course, for the vast number of you who aren't Matt LeBlanc, this glyph combo is not very helpful. Sure you could use it to translate the opening credits for Friends, but then what? What else has Mr. LeBlanc been in? At least that he'd admit to?

No, it would be much more useful to assemble a glyph combo for a more ubiquitous actor -- let's say, Richard Dreyfuss. You know, while we're on the subject, the resemblence between me and Mr. Dreyfuss has been noted far more often than I care to think about. There was, for examble, a bartender in London, and a cashier at Arby's, also a temp worker, the entire staff at a medical lab where I went for some tests, the delivery guy who always calls me "Richard" ... well you get the picture. Unfortunately, it's not like Richard Dreyfuss is noted for his magnificent good looks, at least not since the Seventies. If they compared me to, oh, I don't know, the Jaws Drefuss, that I could deal with, but no, mostly I get comparisons to the What About Bob? Dreyfuss, the Down and Out in Beverly Hills Dreyfuss -- you know, his middle-aged nebbish phase.

At least it's better than that time I was compared to Rob Reiner.

Anyway, translating names...

Richard means [brave/strong][ruler/power] and Dreyfuss means [three][foot].

Another person I'm frequently compared to is Albert Einstein, although frankly I'm a bit annoyed to detect a tone of sacasm in their voice when they say it. In any case Albert is [noble][bright], and Einstein is [one][stone]

Other People:

Benjamin Franklin



Demi Moore



Franklin Roosevelt



Frank Capra



George Bush

[earth][work][St. George's cross]


Richard the Lion Hearted



Rosa Parks





Stephen King



William Shakespeare



Winston Churchill



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Last updated September 2003

Copyright © 2003 Matthew White