top of page

Ray O’Neill – Naming the Love That Dares Not Speak its Name – The Politics and Perils of Language and Sexuality


THE LETTER 28 (Summer 2003) pages 80-95


Nommo means Word


Nommo is the force that makes things live as what they are: man or tree or animal. Nommo means word. The rabbit has the life it has – not a rat life or mongoose life – because it is named rabbit, mvundla. A child is not alive, claims Nelson, until it is named. I told him this explained a mystery for me. My sister and I are identical twins, so how is that from one single seed we have two such different lives? Now I know. Because I am named Adah and she is named Leah.


Thus Adah, a fifteen year old girl learns from the Congolese boy Nelson in Barabara Kingsolver’s novel The Poisonwood Bible not just about life and culture in the Congo, but more importantly about the nature and power of language itself, that it gives not just meaning, signification, but life, identity. The Lacanian discourse recognises this very power of language, the significance of the Symbolic Order, and how it dominates our understanding of the world. Because it is indeed our understanding of the world, there being no understanding outside of language, since it is through language that our understanding is expressed, thought, experienced and written.

Naming the Love That Dares Not Speak its Name

  • After completing your purchase, you will receive a link to download your digital product(s) as a PDF, along with an emailed link that will last for 30 days. The PDF is for individual use only. 

Recent Articles