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An obsession with naming

Why do people insist on naming everything? We seem to have an underlying need to give things unique names. We do this even for things which are not being explicitly marketed, are only used within one context and do not have to compete with other things providing the same function (Although I have just stated quite a few constraints on what I am talking about there are still quite a lot of things covered by it). Let me clarify what I am complaining about with an example:

I just ran a cropper of this problem when trying to request some changes be made to my university’s central address book. The maintainer seemed quite confused by my referring to it as “the university address book”… apparently I should have known to call it Person Finder. Silly me! One email simply reads:

It's called Person Finder.

What is wrong with “Address book”, that is surely what it is to most people? Perhaps I am different, do most people think in terms of names or what something actually does or is? Other than being memorable, what is the point, and if that is the only point does it really help us remember or communicate about a particular thing?

The two extremes of this might results in my being called “vegetarian engineer from Guisborough” or, on the other hand, Person 728692. Although many of our names did once reflect key identifying traits, we just got lazy or sentimental when it came to changing them… I should really be living in a loft-house below a cliff face. A person is something which must clearly be named in a global context which lends more weight to a numbering system…and I do not think I am something which already has a widely accepted name nor can I be easily and intuitive described! We are all different things to different people after all. There are clearly circumstances where naming is the most desirable solution but I feel we take it too far!

This post started off which a clear intention to rant about something very specific… it turned into just a amble with a particularly aggressive tone.

Posted on 18 Feb 2008

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