Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/27

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17
THE EVOLUTION OF CEREMONIAL GOVERNMENT.

THE EVOLUTION OF CEREMONIAL GOVERNMENT.
By HERBERT SPENCER.
VII.—TITLES.

THE undeveloped human intelligence does not initiate. Adhering tenaciously to whatever his fathers taught him, the primitive man deviates into novelty only through unintended modifications. That which every one now knows holds of languages, that they are not devised but evolve, equally holds of usages. To many proofs of this the foregoing chapters of this series have added further proofs.

The like holds of titles. Looked at as now existing, these appear artificial: there is suggested the idea that they were at some time or other consciously settled. But this is no more true than it is true that our common words were once consciously settled. Names of objects and qualities, and acts, are at first directly or indirectly descriptive; and the names we class as titles are in this respect like all others. Just as the deaf-mute who calls to mind a person he means by mimicking a peculiarity has no idea of introducing a symbol, so neither has the savage, when he recalls a place as the one where the kangaroo was killed or the one where the cliff fell down; so neither has he when he suggests an individual by referring to some marked trait in his appearance or fact in his life; and so neither has he when he gives those names, literally descriptive or metaphorically descriptive, which now and again develop into titles.

The very conception of a proper name grew up unawares. The fact that among the uncivilized a child is for years known as "Thunder-storm," or "New Moon," or "Father-come-home," shows us that there was originally nothing more than a reference to an event which occurred on its birthday, as a way of raising the thought the particular child meant. And if afterward it gets such a name as "Squash-head," or "Dirty-saddle" (Dakota names), this results from spontaneously using an alternative, and sometimes better, means of identification. Evidently the like has happened with such less needful names as titles. These must have differentiated from ordinary proper names, simply by being descriptive of some trait, or some deed, or some function, held in honor.

 

Various savage races give a man a name of renown in addition to, or in place of, the name by which he was previously known, on the occasion of a great achievement in battle. The Tupis furnish a good illustration. "The founder of the [cannibal] feast took an additional name as an honorable remembrance of what had been done, and his female relations ran through the house shouting the new title." And