Why do we need to name things?

Yesterday I had a conversation with someone who asked me,’Why do we NEED to name things? Like companies, organizations, products, movements?’

I found this when I was poking around today, from Laura Casey, a student of Human Ecology (don’t you love that?) at College of the Atlantic and I thought I’d share:

“What is the name of that geranium on the window sill, please?”

“That’s the apple scented geranium.”

“Oh, I don’t mean that sort of a name. I mean just a name you gave it yourself. Didn’t you give it one then? May I call it–let me see–Bonny would do–may I call it Bonny while I’m here? Oh, do let me!”

“Goodness, I don’t care. But where on earth is the sense of naming a geranium?”

“Oh, I like things to have handles on them even if they are only geraniums. It makes them more like people.”

–L. M. Montgomery
Anne of Green Gables

People who raise farm animals for meat rarely name them. In many cultures, babies are not considered real, not whole people, until they are named. Villains in books and movies are often left unnamed or given euphemisms like Dr. Claw, The Joker, or Scar; they are never called Mike or Jen. In all of these cases, real names make the person or animal multi-dimensional, capable of feeling, worthy of empathy.

Names give people something to hold onto–handles as Anne of Green Gables calls them. Your name is almost always the first intimate detail about yourself that you give to a new acquaintance. This introduction, this sharing, breaks the barrier of the status stranger. Your name is directly linked to your identity; it personalizes you. When you share your name, you open a door to yourself.

Naming things, like businesses, products or movements make them some how more human. Always a good thing in my naming opinion. When a company shares it’s name, they indeed open a door.

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