What is in a name?
Illustration by Jo Chapman
All my life, my heart has yearned for a thing I cannot name.
- André Breton
Towel around waist, feet slapping kitchen tiles, I got to my notebook, scratched down a particularly pressing idea and titled it: “On Naming Things”.
Ideas tend to slide on stage when I'm doing my best to ignore them: showering, sleeping, sexing and such. Naturally I continue ignoring, while they make obscene gestures and threaten to run off. This continues ’til I roll my eyes, and capture it in my nearest notebook (either analog or digital).
Water still dripping I quickly scribbled out “Things”. I despise all-encompassing uses of the word “Things” as much as I despise most uses of “They”*.
Left with “On Naming” I evaluated.
I didn't want to focus on the method. I wanted to focus on the act. “On Naming” comes across formal, possibly pretentious, and wrong. I scribbled out “On”.
“Naming” fit the idea that ousted me from an otherwise relaxing shower:
Naming is the emotional human act of experiencing something significant enough to take existing mental structures (metaphors and morphemes), and link them to the experience. Creating a contextual tag to easily recall and share.
- Refined from my original scratching.
That’s a mouthful, so I swilled then distilled to:
Naming: repurposing the known to define the new.
We find the name for an idea through the relationships of other ideas. Representing and expressing it with just a word or few.
A name is more than a label. It is context. A searchable, shareable linguistic #tag representing the experience and information that goes with it.
I hope this thought helps the next time you make a name.
I'd like to explore the act of Naming more.
For now we have the name.