What’s In A Word?

Volume III / Issue 13 — 16 August 2022

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.” – William Shakespeare

This famous quote by Shakespeare seems to imply that names are somewhat irrelevant, at least that is a common scholarly interpretation. But are names irrelevant? More to the point, are words irrelevant?

One of my favorite things to watch on Instagram are videos that explore specific words in different languages. An example that seems to be permanently etched in my brain and never fails to make me smile or giggle is the word “hospital”. 

In this video (watch on YouTube), the presenters state the word “hospital” in different Western European (aka: mostly romance) languages, from English (hospital), to French (hôpital) to Spanish (hospital) to Italian (ospedale) and finally to German (krankenhaus). The “krankenhaus” gets me every time. It sounds exactly like what it is: A house with crankiness or complaints. Given that “complaint” is a historical word for having a medical condition, it seems apt. 

So, what’s in a word or a name? Obviously a rose smells as sweet if it has a different name, but the truth is that the smell of sweetness is entirely subjective. I know some people who don’t like the smell of roses. To them, it’s not sweet. Therefore, does the name matter? Is it equally as subjective?

I don’t have an answer to this, but I still think it’s a question worth pondering. Words have power, and words have inherent meaning. For that reason alone, practices like NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) exist and matter. When we get conscious with our word choice, we can change our life and the lives of those around us. For me, that matters. Actually, that’s what matters most.

As the old saying goes: Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. In this instance, I’d modify it to: Be mindful of what you say, words once spoken (or written) cannot be retrieved.

All my best,


There is power in words.
What you say is what you get.

– Zig ziglar –

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