Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

There was an interesting story titled 'Want a New You? Change Your Name' written by singer and pianist, Alina Simons (Alina Vilenkin by her old name) in New York Times (December 26 issue), in which she introduces how her life changed after changing her name:

“Twelve years ago, I changed my own name to Alina Simone. - - So I know that whenever someone changes her name, a body gets stuffed in the closet. When I think back to my old self, I think of an entirely different person, not altogether likable, whose singular distinguishing characteristic was the chronic inability to follow through with anything she said she would do.”

I don’t understand the meaning of the phrase, “a body gets stuffed in the closet.” What does it mean? Is it a colloquial expression?

By the way, as an associated question, we have professional advisors of name change called name doctor (姓名鑑定士) in our country. They judge, diagnose, and recommend a new name to clients and their expectant children based on the number of strokes of Japanese characters of your name and the date of your birth. Is there similar profession in your country? If there is, how are they called (in English)?

share|improve this question
    
So, 'a body' means 'old me.' –  Yoichi Oishi Dec 29 '11 at 7:04
2  
There's no such name doctors in any of the European countries I know about, but I think some have name lists from where you're meant to choose names for children. –  Hugo Dec 29 '11 at 7:51
add comment

4 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

"A body gets stuffed in the closet" is neither idiomatic nor common. The meaning is not completely clear to me. Just reading along unsuspectingly, I'd have supposed it to be a mangled version of the more-common "skeleton in the closet", a collocation used to suggest hidden secrets, a dark past. But looking at a book reference from ngrams gives me the impression that "stuffed in the closet" is a recently-developed set phrase referring to psychological events repressed instead of dealt with.

Regarding professional advisors on name changing based on the number of strokes of Japanese characters in one's name and date of birth, I am not aware of any such persons in the USA. Maybe in Canada?

Edit: As I note in a comment, the article gives me the impression the author means something like "my former me is buried and gone, now the new me is here"; in other words, she is trying to emphasize the scale of change she experienced.

share|improve this answer
    
So, 'a body' means 'old me.'? –  Yoichi Oishi Dec 29 '11 at 7:06
    
There is no hidden meaning or one that is 'not completely clear'. Obviously you were distracted by 'closet'. Please see my answer below. –  Kris Dec 29 '11 at 7:33
    
@YoichiOishi, "a body" is referring to aspects of "old me" but just what the writer means is muddled because of the conflation of phrases that I mentioned. Perhaps other context in the article makes the writer's intended meaning more clear? –  jwpat7 Dec 29 '11 at 8:58
    
Though it’s clearly a matter of taste / style, I still wonder why she used the word ‘a body’ instead of saying ‘old me / old identity, old character, what I was,’ whatever more articulately. –  Yoichi Oishi Dec 29 '11 at 20:51
    
I've now read the article and have the impression the author means something like "my former me is buried and gone, now the new me is here"; in other words, is trying to emphasize the scale of change she experienced. By the way, the author's former name is Alina Vilenkin (according to sentence before your quote); Eunice Waymon was the real name of Nina, not Alina, Simone per last paragraph of article. –  jwpat7 Dec 29 '11 at 23:23
add comment

'whenever someone changes her name, a body gets stuffed in the closet. When I think back to my old self, I think of an entirely different person, ...'

That sets it out clearly there.

When you change your name, it is the end of a certain personality. The new name makes you think like an altogether new person, a new personality, a new character in the society and so on.

So you kind of stuff the old you into the closet and start a new existence.

share|improve this answer
1  
Compare also with come out of the closet: to talk in public about something which you kept secret in the past because you were embarrassed about it, or to tell people that you are homosexual so that it is no longer a secret. –  Hugo Dec 29 '11 at 7:48
    
Yes, this analogy fits well with the context. –  Kris Dec 29 '11 at 9:42
add comment

The practice of drawing hidden meaning from numbers is called numerology, and in the West numerology usually uses the number of letters in a word or name. Very few people take it seriously though, it's rarely if ever used to actually choose a name (only to make predictions on an existing name), and I would think very few people could make a profession of it.

Such a person (as well as a Japanese 姓名鑑定士) would be called a name numerologist.

share|improve this answer
add comment

In regard to "name doctors" I have never heard of anything similar in Western countries. Here in New Zealand there are laws that apply some restrictions to legal names such as maximum length, no religious references, cannot use numbers or punctuation. However within that framework people are free to choose any name they like for children (and frequently do). I think it's fair to say that most people in Western countries do not put the same amount of significance or importance on names as people in eastern and Asian countries.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.