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TOTD 06 Sep 2001

A rose by any other name
Would never, never smell the same
And cunning is the nose that knows
An onion that's been called a rose

-Wendell Johnson

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( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
saint_monkey
Sep. 6th, 2001 04:51 pm (UTC)
chiming in:
What, no counterpoint? Well, I can help there.

Johnson was playing off Shakespeare's quote in Romeo and Juliet stating essentially, that things would be much better if we didn't attach so much value to appearances. Shakespeare wasn't speaking of beauty here, (as the quote is often misued,) but meaningless hatred based upon the superficial, so... in a way, prejudice.

JULIET: 'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.


Johnson's seemingly tounge in cheek (no pun intended) reply seems to be addressing the "ironic" use of this oft quoted passage, but Johnson was an educated man (a noted speech and hearing science pioneer in addition to a poet.) He would assuredly have been aware of the intent of the original quote. So perhaps in that light, the phrase may say a little something about racism as well?
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