Weekend Reading: What’s in a Name?

What caught my eye this week

This week I’ve been talking to a number of people who’ve just completed their degree (congratulations, folks!). For many it’s their first degree; for some it’s their second, or even their third. It set me to remembering my first degree, and what mattered most to me at the time. Oddly enough, it wasn’t the fancy certificate, or the graduation ceremony with friends and family. No, for me it was the award of letters after my name.

I was brought up at a time and in a town where going to university wasn’t common. So it wasn’t until after I started university that I realised a degree would change my name; I would be Cora Beth Fraser BA (Hons). To me that was a profound and startling revelation.

Growing up as the only ‘Cora Beth’ (due to my mother’s enthusiasm for The Waltons) in a class which included four Christophers, three Davids and five Emmas, names had always held great significance for me. Names can set you apart or mark you as one of a group; they can proclaim your marital or social status; they can be a source of cultural distress or a statement of identity. Names have the facility to communicate family, status and culture today, much as the tria nomina did for the Romans. So the idea of earning an addition to my name fascinated me.

Most of us, even within academia, would agree that post-nominal letters (BA, BSc, MA etc.) are useless in a practical sense; it’s often considered pompous to use them, and debates rage about when and how you should do so. I accept this, and these days I only use my letters when writing references on behalf of students: but still, I collect them. When I see unfamiliar letters after somebody’s name, I look them up and investigate whether I could get them too. Last week I picked up another letter after my name (Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy – SFHEA), and I’m as delighted as I was when I got my first BA.

So to those who are about to graduate, or who have graduated recently, I’d like to say this: celebrate your letters! Write out your name in full, with your post-nominal letters added on, somewhere conspicuous – in fact, feel free to do so in the ‘Comments’ box below! Tell me about your letters: do you use them?

Education changes people. Sometimes we lose sight of that. The letters after our names are there to remind us of how we’ve changed. [Also they’re fun to collect: like the letters you used to find on the lids of Smarties tubes – or is that just me?!]




From Classical Studies Support

On dealing with failure – Classical Studies Support 

Attending the Classics MA Day at The Open University – Classical Studies Support 

Postgraduate study and learning from mistakes – Classical Studies Support



Recipe for the world’s oldest bread? – BBC 

New art in Pompeii and Herculaneum – Guardian 

Using subatomic physics to read scrolls – Smithsonian 


Comment and opinion

Ancient storytelling and new versions of the IliadGuardian 

An unusual visit to Greece – Edithorial 

The complexity of Thucydides – Sphinx 

Metamorphoses and transgender experience – Eidolon 

On Ovid, Iphis and being a gay Power Ranger – Eidolon 

Celebrating the working lives of classicists – Society for Classical Studies 

Boundaries and guided tours – Society for Classical Studies 

Emily Wilson on translating Homer – Irish Times 

Disability in the ancient world – Classical Fix 

The attraction of ancient disaster sites – A Don’s Life 

Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra [one for the sci-fi fans!] – Historiai 

Best ancient world novels? – Guardian 

… and best elegies? [at least there’s one Roman in there!] – Guardian 

Movies about Rome through sound and soundtracks – Classical Reception Studies Network 

Children’s literature and myth – Antipodean Odyssey 


Resources and opportunities

Contribute to a crazy project – Ars Longa 


Podcasts and videos

Roman mosaic on display – Leicestershire Live 

Still looking for curses and the body of Alexander the Great – Fox News 

The legacies of ancient Greece – BBC 


And finally…

Good luck to all those heading to the Greek and Latin Summer School in Durham! I’ll try to get there one evening next week, to see you all…

2 thoughts on “Weekend Reading: What’s in a Name?

  1. After I added my qualification tags to my email signature when I was teaching I got noticeably fewer emails of the ‘what’s the point of this week’s homework’ and ‘do they really they have to know this for the exam’ type. Bonus!


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