Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Friday, July 11, 2008

Renaming the World

It's human nature to want to have names for things, and for those things that have no name in our minds, we have a tendency to make one up. I do this on a regular basis. For instance, someone in the neighborhood got a new dog. I've never seen this dog. The only reason I know it exists is it has a very distinctive bark (which it likes to use either late at night or early in the morning). I have named this particularly annoying canine, 'Chinese Water Torture Dog' - because honest to god, that's what it sounds like. Each bark is like a drip between the eyes. It's horrible (especially when it wakes me up).

Sometimes even when I know the real name for something, I call it something else. This area is full of Western Kingbirds. They're striking birds with gray backs and yellow bellies, and they are true masters of aerial acrobatics as they swoop around hunting bugs. But the most distinctive thing about them is their call. So, I've renamed them Giggle Birds. (If you ever heard one, you'd know what I mean.)

Maybe this renaming of things began with my father, who intentionally gave things the wrong names because he thought it was fun. My oldest brother got the brunt of it, but I grew up hearing stories of how Bill was taught butterflies were flutter-byes and cookies were kee-coos (much to the dismay of our mother, and later, his kindergarten teacher).

In fifth grade, a friend and I were talking about the way the light was slanting through the clouds, and she said those beams were the walkways to heaven. Which reminds me of how as a child, I called cumulonimbus clouds the Palace of the Archangels. *shrug*

Humans need to have names and explanations for everything - it's the way we're built. Otherwise we'd just stumble along, pointing and grunting like a bunch of three-year olds.

Do you make up names for things when you don't know what the real name is? What are some of yours?



JenWriter said...

I do it! Only with people. I have a hard time remembering someone's name when they tell it to me, so I make up names for people. Like Hat Guy. Or Hair Guy. I called one guy I knew in college Cody. His name wasn't actually Cody.

Janimé said...

Don't underestimate the three-year-olds! My DS has been giving things "nicknames" since before he was three. It wasn't that he would make up names for things he didn't know. He just liked giving them his own names.

For the longest time "Yes" and "No" weren't "Yes" and "No". He used "Chinese" words instead. He clucked for "Yes", and did a tongue trill for "No".

He's moved away quite a bit from nicknaming everything in site. But cookies are still "cooks", cucumbers are still "cuucs", and spiral pasta is "pigtails".

The only time I make up names is to annoy my children (DD mostly). So I too like to watch flutter-bys. And once a week or so, we have pasgetti and ah-spare-a-goose for supper :-)

Kristen Painter said...

We rename all kinds of stuff. We call our cats by several different names that change on a regular basis.

We used to have these birds in our backyard in VA that were bright yellow and black. We called them Hemi birds (as in the hemi engine) because they reminded us of a muscle car.