Those of you who follow my blog know I’m constantly remarking about how powerful and fun words are. I love words. And if you can tell a story and manage to raise the image you’re trying to paint in another person’s mind, well, that’s when storytelling becomes art.
I love it when words can be used in alternative tenses. Past, present, and future. But they can also be used in multiple fashions. As a noun, adjective, and verb. All three.
But have you ever seen a proper noun be used with such multiplicity?
Of course you have. But often it’s not in a positive light. Like to “pull a Homer,” means to do something like Homer Simpson did, which is usually stupid. To pull a Clinton means to cheat on your spouse. And on and on . . .
Where am I going with this?
Well yesterday, I was shopping for some good rain gear for upcoming travels and I came across the use of a word I had not seen before. It’s a proper noun, which can be used as a name for a person or a plant. But it can also be used as an adjective to describe colors, or as a verb to describe the construction of fabrics.
The name is Heather.
And I’ve been fortunate enough to meet a couple of Heathers in my life who are very wonderful women.
Heather, as a name for a person, is derived from Middle English and refers to a flowering evergreen plant thriving on peaty, barren, rocky lands, such as in Scotland. The flowers of this plant are a mix of pink and white.
The context I saw yesterday, however, had to do with the interweaving of yarns to produce alternative flecks of color. The composite color was then referred to as “charcoal heather.” To “heather” with yarns means you interweave and mix colors to produce flecks composing an alternate color. It can be any two colors but commonly it is a mix of grays or black and white to produce a muted hue.
So “Heather,” as a noun, can be a person, plant, yarn, or a color. And the word can be used as an adjective to describe a color, or as a verb to describe the process of blending colors.
A versatile and complex word, Heather also carries the symbolism of admiration, good luck, and as being a protective force.
I’m not sure about your name, but my name seems to lack such depth and diversity in meaning. Harold, from the Old English Hereweald, means “army ruler” or “army commander.” I haven’t been commanding any armies lately (maybe armies of words) and I’m not sure you could use Harold as a verb or adjective. Actually, I rather like the Old English name and spelling much better than the current form. It seems more powerful and majestic somehow.
Ironically and apart from its definition, some people seem to relate the name Harold with being puny, sickly, or with being a “dweeb.” And Hollywood has chosen to reinforce this image.
This point was driven home to me when I forayed into the land of internet dating. Some women made it quite clear their bias towards that name, and I found that when I used my last name, “Stearley,” I received fifty-fold the number of responses and interactions.
So yes, “What’s in a name?” 🙂
I am pleased to have met the Heathers I know. They are strong, complex, beautiful, interwoven souls. Their names are fitting.
Photo: No, it’s not the Heather plant. I didn’t have a picture of that. This is the Mohave Lupine. But it does have pink and white in it. I just happen to love this small delicate flower and the close up really brings out its features. Beauty in so many forms. So “What’s in a name?” as the line from Romeo and Juliet ponders 🙂