April 24, 2009
What''s in a name?
For Mississippi University for Women, the more appropriate question is, ''What''s not in a name?'': Reality.
The school has been admitting men since 1982.
That''s at least part of the reason the school sent 30 people on a mission to sift through a thousand-plus names.
And in a tedious and ceremonious meeting, they finally narrowed it down to three -- Reneau University, Welty-Reneau University and Waverley University.
Months later, after online polls and focus groups -- for a price tag of $86,179, made payable to The Cirlot Agency -- the school threw in a red herring and began again at Square One.
Market testing and research is far from unheard of for a public institution thinking of redefining and renaming itself. Plus, The Cirlot Agency has kicked in $71,608 worth of in-kind services.
Still, starting over seems almost unfathomable after all the time and energy expended. And we''re indeed back to the drawing board, kicking around a name that''s been beaten (apparently not quite to death) for several years. Proponents of the name "Welty University" want to honor the Pulitzer Prize-winning author with roots in Mississippi and a two-year stint at MUW. And, of course, we can keep calling the school "The W." (Who cares? ... In an informal poll, a handful of people in this very city had no idea what The W was.)
The process, while not as close to my heart as some might think -- myself and my husband both being W grads -- has gotten me thinking. Because, as The W grapples with its name change, I am facing a name crisis of my own. And like MUW, I am right back to Square One.
But I have no marketing firm or committee to blame or to do the dirty work. It''s just me. And, of course, the Mr. -- my inamorato, Micah Sean Burnett. (Soon-to-be big sister Kyla, 5, would like to think she has a say-so as well.)
After 31 or so weeks of pregnancy and my mental decision it''s a boy (all without any medical science to verify my claims), I have come up with two names. The Mr. has shot down both of these, with less than 30 seconds of thought.
"I don''t want a junior," he says, matter-of-factly, without offering an alternative to Micah Sean Burnett II.
Micah was a prophet of God in Israel around 700 B.C. He condemned his people for their mistreatment of the poor and predicted the destruction of Jerusalem.
"Solomon Burnett doesn''t sound right," Micah says, again with no alternative to my proposed Solomon Micah Burnett.
According to the Bible, Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived. His downfall: 700 wives and 300 concubines. From 1970-1930 B.C., during his reign as king of Israel, he offered such words of insight as, "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding." (Proverbs 4:7)
He''s most famous for the story of two women claiming the same baby. His solution: Cut the child in half. One of the women was willing to let the child be raised by the other rather than let the child be sawed in half. She -- the woman willing to suffer herself and keep the child whole -- was the true mother, Solomon decided.
Were Solomon around today, he probably would have a simple solution to offer The W and the Burnetts.
Though it might seem to impact far fewer people, in my search for a name for my child, I have found new appreciation for the laborious and deliberate process of renaming MUW.
Like my son''s name, it will invoke thoughts and questions before anyone gets to know what''s behind the name. Before a person sets foot on campus, it will define the school -- in some way -- for them. Just as my child''s name will for him (or her).
It''s a big decision. I wish we had more time for a slow, deliberate process. Unfortunately, I''m on a strict time limit. ...
And if it''s a girl, we''re in serious trouble!
Garthia Elena Burnett is news editor of The Dispatch. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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