A good name is better than riches.

Note: This week’s proverb comes to us from the Old Testament’s Book of Proverbs, “Tá dea-cháil le roghnú thar bhreis maoine, agus is fearr dea-mheas ort ná airgead nó ór.” (A good name is to be chosen above riches, and a good reputation is better than silver or gold.) Proverbs 22:1 This aphorism appears again in the Book of Ecclesiastes, “Is fearr dea-ainm ná dea-ola agus lá báis ná lá breithe.” (A good name is better than good oinment, and the day of death than the day of birth.) Ecclesiastes 7:1 The word ‘ointment’ here refers to the oils applied to a child at birth. It is a metaphor that means a good name survives even death. There is a Japanese proverb along the same lines. “When a tiger dies it leaves its skin; when a man dies it leaves its name.”

William Shakespeare probably composed the greatest ironic tale about a good name in the English language. The evil lieutenant Iago tells his general, Othello,

Good name in man, and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of our souls.
Who steals my purse steals trash. ‘Tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.

The Tragedy of Othello, Act III, Scene III, Verses 178-184.

as he is plotting to besmirch the name of Desdemona, Othello’s wife. Not much is known about Shakespeare’s origins but his genius as a seanchaí (story teller) is indisputable. Consequently, some believe that he is an offspring of an ancient mystical Celtic clann, “Seach-an-spéir” (Beyond the sky).