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Hollywood's name game

Shakespeare asked in Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."  He was saying that it matters more what something truly is, not what it is called.  And for such a famous wordsmith, that was saying something.

So why is Sean “Diddy” Combs re-naming himself, yet again?  Rapper Sean John Combs started out under the moniker Puff Daddy, then P-Diddy, then Puffy, and just Diddy.  Now, he’s going to court to change his legal name to Sean Love Combs.  Apparently, his original middle name – which means “gift of God” – just wasn’t good enough.

In the entertainment world, the right name is paramount.  Why else would an aspiring singer born Arnold George Dorsey go to the trouble of becoming one Engelbert Humperdinck?

When television shows are developed, the name is often the last part of the production to be finalized.  Most start with a “working title” and in the process of going from idea to script to pilot to a full season, the name can change multiple times.  In 1994, what started as Insomnia Café changed to Friends Like Us and then Six of One before premiering as the hit, Friends.

Other shows changed titles over the seasons.  Ellen DeGeneres’ sitcom premiered in 1994 under the name These Friends of Mine before being re-tooled in season two to focus on the comedian.

Meanwhile, Canada’s Degrassi series started as The Kids of Degrassi Street.  As the characters grew up, the show became Degrassi Junior High and then Degrassi High.  When it returned after an eight-year hiatus, it was called Degrassi: The Next Generation as those characters were now the teachers and/or parents of a new set of students.

The real complications start when shows and movies are released around the world.  Translations don’t always work well with colloquialisms or the social norms of other countries.

Survivor is Expedition Robinson in Sweden.  The Egyptian version of Everybody Loves Raymond was called Close Doors.  In French, Star Trek was known as Patrol of the Cosmos and The X-Files was called At the Boundaries of Reality.

But sometimes, even staying with the same language creates a problem in new countries.  The UK seems to prefer numbered titles when sequels are created.  Consequently, Live Free or Die Hard was re-named Die Hard 4.0 for British viewers.  And The Fast and the Furious franchise also saw a 5, 7, and 8 added to the associated American titles.

Even within Hollywood, the same shows seem to appear with new names every decade or so.  How else would you explain St. Elsewhere (1982), ER (1994), and Grey’s Anatomy (2005)?  Even many of the family sitcoms are essentially the same show with a different cast over and over again.

So maybe the Bard was right after all.  How all-important is a name really?  It’s going to change wherever you are.

But if Mr. P-Diddy-Puff-Daddy-Sean-John Combs wants to be called Love, fine.  I’ll just call him “L’amour.”