This week Fish and #TARDIS Sauce — the trans-dimensional newsletter of The Parker Institute of Time Travel Studies (The PITTS) — looks at that age-old question: What’s in a name? Our resident time-traveller and curmudgeon, Keith Parker, seeks answers to this and many more questions in today’s dispatch. Take it away, Keith:
While a name may be as simple as “a word or set of words by which a person, animal, place or thing is known” (Apple, Inc., Dictionary), or as serious as a code name, like the Manhattan Project, or simply telling of character (“I just love Biblical names,” Dot said in RAISING ARIZONA), one expression that has always confused me was “in the name of.”
Like most folks, I’ve used the expression “In the name of God.” I’ve sung “In the Name of Love” by U2, much to chagrin of family and friends, and I even told the guy at the DMV (repeatedly) that our car was registered “in the name of my wife.” In most cases (God, the DMV dude) I was rebuffed by open-mouthed stares. So, given all that, what do we glean from the ending of the Doctor Who seventh season finale, when the stranger tells the Doctor:
“What I did, I did without choice… in the name of peace and sanity.”
To which the Doctor replies, “But not in the name of ‘The Doctor.'” (from Wikipedia)
I have to admit I’ve never thought about this phrase. According to the usual Internet sources (Wiktionary, Dictionary.com, Mirriam-Webster.com, etc), “in the name of” basically means “by the authority of.” In other words, The Doctor chastises the stranger in order to make sure he (the stranger) knows he did not have the authority to evoke the Doctor’s real name. The stranger broke a promise, and there are going to be consequences.
This is cool. Literature is chock full of mysterious and secretive names, a short list of which I provide here:
- One Whose Name Cannot Be Spoken — Battlestar Galactica (the new one)
- YHWH, the name of God, which must not be spoken — Jewish tradition (the old one)
- Voldemort — Harry Potter Series
- Monstrous nuclear chaos from beyond angled space — H.P. Lovecraft
- Hastur — The One Who is Not to be Named — H.P. Lovecraft
- Spock’s first name — Star Trek: The Original Series
- Richard Milhous Nixon — American President, 1969-1974
You get the picture. We see this name-is-power thingy throughout history, both fiction and non. The point here (I suppose, if I even have one) is that when you say, “Not in the name of The Doctor,” or “Not in the name of Keith,” you’re implying the name itself contains power, potential energy.
Using a sacred name creates an effect. In other words, a powerful name is a cause, as in “cause and effect.” And therefore (“a witch!”) a name may well be a pivot point in time. After all, would time travel even be a story if it were not for our desire decouple effects from their causes? Anyone who’s ever been heartbroken knows a cause is much more than a name. So what is in a name, anyway? Lots and lots of potential energy, waiting to be harnessed, for good or for ill. Be careful what you wish for, and be careful what you choose. I, for one, never say things that shouldn’t be said … well, not usually, anyhow …
The PITTS hope you’ve enjoyed this 11-dimensional multi-multi-multi-multi-multi-media slide stack, and hope you’ll be back next time, same PITTS Time, same PITTS channel.
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Copyright © 2013 by Keith Parker