Question 8 of 365: What's in a name?

Starting something new is much easier than coming up with a good name for that new thing. Whether that is a business, an educational model, or just a theory. Is KIPP a popular charter model because it has such a memorable name (or, more likely, is it popular because of the change it creates within students)? Is Twitter popular because it evokes the quickness of the service? Is Google a verb now because of the hard G sound that is repeated? All of these are plausible.

Everyone that has some advice for a new venture seems to have advice for naming it. Especially when it comes to children. People seem to want you to try on their favorites and see what you think. I think it is probably the same instinct that causes people to want to name your business or school. They would like to see what you think of their ability to own some part of the idea without actually having been a part of its creation.

So, are we dooming any venture to an early death by making an egregious error against some of the most highly valued properties of naming?

  • Something that is hard to say.
  • Something that is too long.
  • Something that doesn’t really evoke an emotion or an image of what you are trying to accomplish.
  • Something that can’t easily be turned into a verb (googling, blogging, tweeting)

Or, could we simply call it what we want and create something great, that people will want to use and help to grow. In the end, does the name really matter? Is Flickr the leader of photo sharing sites in spite of the odd spelling? Is Drop.io a success because of the strange url that is uses?

I guess to finally answer the question, I must put it onto myself. What is in a name for me?

I want whatever I do to be something that I can be passionate about. I want it to call up only the right things in my head when I think about it. I want it to be always on the tip of my tongue. I want it to immediately stick out in a crowd of millions, and I want it to stay with you long after you hear it for the first time. I want it to be something that people don’t have to overlook just to see the merits of what I am trying to do. In essence, the name is something I want to call out in triumph and not yell out in agony.

It’s a good thing I named my kids well, I suppose. The names Isabelle and Tobias bring me so much joy, and I don’t get questioned daily about them. I think there is something to be said for that.

0 Comments

  1. I leave this one to Arthur Miller who said it better than anyone else ever could, “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!” (The Crucible)

  2. When I use The Crucible to teach, I warn the kids I won't be able to talk to
    any of them for a good half hour after we finish it. This line is the line
    to which I turn when faced with ethical dilemmas. It reminds me who I am.

  3. I keep meaning to ask you.

    Have you read the Perks of Being a Wallflower? I know I have mentioned it a
    bunch.

    I usually read that book in one sitting.

    “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”

    It is trite if you read it on its own, but when you are in that boy's head,
    everything makes sense and you want to be infinite too.

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