What’s in a name?

nameNote to self: When making notes to self, in future please ensure that content of said note is sufficiently erudite to communicate the intended purpose of note. In this particular instance, the note in question was simply today’s title, with a link to a song. In the normal course of events, that usually means I’ve had a barnstormer of an idea for a post, but at a most inconvenient time, so I’ll jot down the briefest details to revisit in depth when I have the opportunity. Unfortunately, on this occasion, my jotted-down note was three days ago, and I haven’t the faintest idea what I intended to write, now that I’ve returned to it.

Ho hum, well here goes nothing…

There is something intrinsically powerful about names – if all that possessing a name amounted to was to have a simple means of identification, then there are far better and succinct means of doing so than the fairly arbitrary naming systems that we, as a species, have adopted. National Insurance numbers and telephone numbers are, for example, much better suited to that task, if perhaps not always quite as easy to recall when referring to others. Neither do we tend to use names only as a convenience, by far the majority of us use what is otherwise a fairly straightforward nomenclature in ways that range from the purely descriptive to the mystical and esoteric.

The manner in which we employ personal names can be influenced by a variety of factors: names can show familial links, religious affiliation and can even be used as a sort of of personal punctuation – an interrobang of the soul – particularly should we choose to be known by a mononym: There is something about a single, expressive statement of ‘I’ in the form of a name that says so much about the person… Cher, Sting, Spock, and of course, Prince Roger Nelson a.k.a that completely unpronounceable and untypeable symbol thing. Names (or lack of) can be powerful things – the manufacturing and sales industries spend millions in researching what names will sell, and what will lead to a downfall in profit: Would you rather drive a Ford Mustang, or a Ford Donkey; drink Coca Cola or New Coke?

That power with which names are imbued is also evident in the way in which we choose to afford the privilege of an appellation to inanimate, or non-human, objects too. We’ll happily give formal names to boats, spacecraft, hurricanes and our pets, and many of us are equally at home naming the most everyday of objects. Who hasn’t owned a car they’ve christened Maureen, or had a pet name for their favourite body part?

Names hold a singularly important place in SL too, something that’s currently very much on the radar as speculation about the eventual brand name for Project Sansar will be – getting that particular name wrong could be disastrous for Linden Lab! However, wherever we look in SL we can see instances where names have paramount importance when it comes to achieving particular aims. Try this simple test – imagine your own local High Street, populated with the shops you are so familiar with, now imagine the same High Street, but sporting the brand names of stores familiar to us in SL. Without even considering the goods they might be selling, I can almost guarantee that that the SL version is more attractive. Unconstrained by the demands of political correctness, corporate branding and and local planning regulations, SL store names are infinitely more exciting, compelling and interesting that what we see in the real world. If SL was ever to be closed down, there’s an awful lot of residents who could make a good living out of marketing and advertising, I reckon!

Parcel and sim names can be equally evocative, guiding our expectations and compelling us to explore ever deeper. And then, of course, there are our own names – those we choose to be known by. The strength of feeling we have for these is unequivocal – the outrage that was felt amongst the SL populace when the Lab made the decision to do away with allocated second names is testament to that, although it can reasonably be argued that we have just as much scope for creativity with first names as we ever did, and the advent of screen names gives even greater flexibility. Perhaps it is in our avatar names that we are most expressive, and rightly so. Ever that, however, is only part of the picture – for in a uniquely human way, real world conventions sneak into the virtual world, subverting even the cherished and hallowed ground of avatar names, by the simple and charming expedient of nicknames!

Many of my friends are known inworld by their nicknames – names that never appear in their profile or above their heads, yet they are indisputably part of them. You’ll hear, for example, some of my close inworld friends frequently referring to me as ‘Boots’ – for reasons I won’t go into now – a name to which I’ll happily respond without a second thought… and perhaps that’s something else about names too: Sometimes it’s not what we choose to call ourselves that matters, but it’s who we are to those closest to us.



s. x

And scars are souvenirs you never lose
The past is never far
Did you lose yourself somewhere out there?
Did you get to be a star?
And don’t it make you sad to know that life
Is more than who we are
Googoo Dolls – Name

This entry was posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What’s in a name?

  1. Paypabak Writer says:

    So true! My avatar name has been a great icebreaker for strangers chatting me up. I have no idea where Boots came from but I have to say that calling you Seren, for short, puts me in mind of Tolkien, which isn’t bad, but not where most of us find you.

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