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What’s in a Name?

March 15, 2008

Being an English major, I’m taking a History of Greek Literature class at university, and right now we’re studying Sophocles’ Antigone. Yesterday my prof posed an interesting question to us: how would your reaction be to this play if it were called Creon instead of Antigone?

For those of you who don’t know the story of Antigone, here’s a quick condensed version of it: Antigone’s brothers were on opposing sides in a battle, and both died. Her uncle, King Creon, declared that one of them should get the proper burial rites, but that the other brother’s body should be left out in the open in disgrace. Antigone, being a strong and capable woman, is infuriated and she gives her brother the proper burial rites against Creon’s will. When he finds out what she’s done, he banishes her to a cave. Because it’s a Greek tragedy, naturally, she kills herself, and then Creon’s son (who is also Antigone’s fiance) kills himself, and then Creon’s wife kills herself, and then Creon is the fallen king.

Goodness. Those ancient Greeks really liked their excessive tragedies. For what it’s worth, it’s actually a really great story and very enjoyable to read (even though I’ve just made it sound depressing as hell- which I guess it kind of is). At any rate, the whole idea behind the play is that Antigone supports the side of kinship and the gods’ law, whereas Creon stands for the good of the community and human law. And when you read the story with the title in mind, you naturally sympathize with Antigone. However! If it were instead titled Creon, it’s a lot more likely that the natural tendency would be to sympathize with him instead. It’s an interesting concept because often we don’t pay much attention to these other perspectives and ideas.

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “this is all well and good, but isn’t this a health blog?” No worries, those cookies and yummy indulgences fit in very nicely with this concept of titles! (See, in university we learn all sorts of useful skills, such as the ability to relate anything we study in class to tasty foods).

There are two wonderful dessert places here in Winnipeg that I go to from time to time to enjoy a nice thick slab of cake: Baked Expectations and Dessert Sinsations. Just drink in those words for a moment. Don’t they sound delicious? And they most certainly are. I love love love the oreo cheesecake at Baked, and the “chocolate chocolate chocolate torte” from Dessert Sinsations is delectable (and made with real Belgian chocolate!… the woman behind the counter could REALLY sell that cake).

Going to either of these places is always a splurge and a special treat. I think if I went there on a regular basis the novelty would wear off and I might get sick of eating so much cake (I’m assuming that it is in fact possible to get sick of cake? What a curious notion!). But you know, if these places didn’t have such scintillating names like “Baked Expectations” and “Dessert Sinsations”, I don’t know if they would be as enjoyable to go to. It’s always a bit exciting to go to one of those places and know that I’m having a large portion of something sugary and delicious that I normally would not be eating; it’s such a delightfully guilty pleasure! And who can resist something with the word “chocolate” three times in it’s name?

If the name of something can effect everything from your reaction to a play to the rate of enjoyment that you get from eating at a certain restaurant and ordering particular foods, then it’s got to be pretty damn powerful. I think the next time I bake something I’ll have to come up with some outrageous name for it to make it appear that much more classy and entice people to try it. Who knows, maybe it’ll appear even tastier!

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