Naming stuff is important.
I don’t like clumsy nomenclature, and especially not the lazy cop-out of the acronym!
Surely, considering their importance, we could have come up with some words for things like the CD, the DVD, or the GPS, three examples of things that desperately need proper names.
In the old days, when people invented stuff like televisions, they didn’t just rest on their laurels and call it a WWP (Wireless With Pictures); they came up with the “tele-vision” structure, presumably based on the “telescope” idea that Prince Cesi supposedly suggested to Galileo as a cool name for his new-fangled OST (1).
Not everyone agrees with me, many think that a name is little more than a label, nothing that affects the substance of the thing, and therefore not important.
They’ll even quote Shakespeare:
That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
Yes, OK, fair point, whenever you can find a neat quote to back up your argument it automatically sounds more convincing, but let’s just unpick this a second.
Juliet was smelling, not selling. The substance of a thing is not changed by the name, but the perception of the thing is!
If this weren’t true, Shakespeare could have made the same point with, for example, a snapdragon or a thistle or a narcissus, but he didn’t. He couldn’t. Shakespeare had to pick a name that conjured up sweet-smelling beauty or his point wouldn’t have succeeded.
This article from Psychology Today backs me up:
… the observed effects seem to be attributable to pronunciation—when a name rolls off the tongue, at an implicit level we associate more positive sentiment with it.
(maybe this is why Shakespeare didn’t go with chrysanthemum).
It’s a finding consistent with previous research showing that the ease, or fluency, with which we perceive something changes our impressions of it.
Ha! That’s what I said – it’s about perception (“impression”). Take that Juliet!
The harder it is for us to come up with examples of a concept the less likely we are to believe it. In fact, simply seeing a fact written in a difficult-to-read font/background color combination makes us less likely to think that it’s true, a finding worth bearing in mind next time you’re crafting a Powerpoint presentation.
We assume that easy = true.
Psychology Today undermine their point by giving their article the terribly obvious name “What’s in a name?” (which is also the first part of Juliet’s speech, immediately preceding the quote above), but their conclusion is hugely important to those of who work in marketing and communications:
- Names need to be simple and straightforward.
- Names need to be easy to reproduce (spell and pronounce).
- Communication must be visually clear – red writing on a black background is the same as saying that you don’t care about your readers.
- Perception matters, it doesn’t alter the substance (2), but it does alter how we feel about that substance.
So, what shall we call a CD, a DVD and GPS then?
- OST = Optical Stargazing Tube. I just made this up, it’s unlikely they really called it this.
- Although there is some (not very convincing) research that suggests that the name of a person can have an impact on their personalities (see this Observer article Names really do make a difference, for example).