Essay, Reflections

The Power of Naming…

I suppose, as long as I’m on this language kick, that it might be appropriate to consider the power of naming…

Lately I have seen several blog posts that ask us about our personal superpowers, both real and imagined.  And so I naturally think of naming, though I haven’t mentioned it as such.  Still, naming is quite a power to possess…

I suppose it’s been decades now since I last read a version of the Christian Bible, but if I recall correctly, it was Adam’s privilege, granted by God, to name His creations.  Among many magickal traditions, it is believed that to possess the “true” name of someone or something, is to possess power over that someone or something.  And many tribal cultures in particular include naming ceremonies or rituals as rites of passage, adopting new names, with new powers, as their journeys progress…

All of which highlight the power and potential of naming…

Why, do you suppose, does naming carry such weight in our experience as humans?

In my (not so humble) opinion, it has to do with language’s ability to guide and direct our thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and desires…

Words are not “real”; while they may refer to real things, they are themselves abstractions, and removed from the reality they purport to describe.  Language works, as does our reasoning process, by analogy.  I can point at an apple, for example, and you cannot truly mistake what I am referring to.  But the moment I name it, as an apple, several things change instantly, and simultaneously…

According to Weinberg’s version of the Ladder of Abstraction (see Weinberg, Harry L.,  Levels of Knowing and Existence, 2nd Edition, Institute of General Semantics, Englewood NJ, 1991), whatever is true of all apples is true of our particular apple, though what is unique about our particular apple is sacrificed in order to name it.  In the same way, by moving up the Ladder, we can say that what is true of all Fruit, is true of all Apples, though what is unique about apples among other fruits is sacrificed to include it in the higher order abstraction…

Why is this important?  Because to name something is to place it on the Ladder, thus immediately attaching both denotative assumptions and connotative implications.  And those factors allow us to make connections, via analogy, that might have otherwise eluded us…

Consider this…

I write something about an apple.  Regardless of what words I write about it, certain connections have already been made in your own mind, consciously or not.  Have you ever tasted one?  Do you like it?  What picture does it bring to mind?  Is your mental apple red, green or yellow?  Is it sweet or tart?  Can you smell the apples baking in your fondest memories?

How many of you flashed back to school at the mention of an apple?  I remember learning to read: “A is for Apple”…  I remember that it was “customary” to give a favored teacher an apple, though I have no idea where that tradition originated…

Did any of you think of New York City, the “Big Apple”? (Ok, maybe that’s just my New Yorker bias showing through…lol!)  How many went immediately to I phones and such?  How many thought of “original sin”?

There are, no doubt, many more connections that could be made, but you get the idea.  That one word, that name, draws the mind in multiple directions, and that doesn’t even fully factor in the connotative dimension, how you feel about those connections…

The point here is that language can be used to guide our thoughts, by utilizing those inherent connections, and “manipulating” our interpretations to a degree.  You, as writers, utilize this power all the time, some instinctively, some intentionally.  Sometimes our unexpected “failures” or “successes” can be traced back to something as simple as word choice, and the connections our audience makes with them…

Think about this…

How many of you have been drawn to check out another’s blog simply because the name intrigued you?  Do you blog under your own name, or do you use a pseudonym?  Does that affect what (or how) you write?  Do you think it affects how others interpret what you write?

If you are unsure, try experimenting with different names.  Try setting up another blog using a carefully considered title and pseudonym, and watch what happens.  It’s not just about the mask of anonymity that frees you to write differently, though that no doubt plays a part.  It’s about the connections your new name reveals, and it may well open your mind to a wealth of possibilities you had not yet considered…

Is there power in naming?  You tell me.  Just make sure you “use your words”; pointing is so limiting, after all…

Advertisements
Standard

15 thoughts on “The Power of Naming…

  1. Very incisive and profound Lisa. Certainly worthy of some pf the philosophical schools of thought which consider the power and use of words.

    I’m not so sure, myself, about the power of a name, though there is no doubt power in words and the way they are used.

    I’m going to ponder on this one and get back to you

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lisa, I so agree with you. Naming is powerful. So much so, in the beginning, each animal was named with purpose. I believe we should be more conscious of names and have purpose in naming things. Very nice perspective of naming. ….

    I appreciate you taking time to visit my blog today.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was just imagining Adam, sulking because God hadn’t given him his sex toy yet, going about the garden, pointing at stuff and to defy God, saying: “Thing… thing… thing… until God, sighing said, “Hey Adam, you want me to call you “Thing” too? And so you see, the Gardenic rebellion didn’t start with an apple made appetizing by a talking snake, but by sexually repressed Adam being sulky. The rest is his story… not mine. A good effort on name-calling, by the way. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God and the Word came and dwelt with us… and we found out that however we felt about it, we were all to be given names – the original stigma of the UPC.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s