Naming things
May 3, 2021

Names are powerful. They let us talk about complex phenomena with fewer syllables. By giving something a label, it suddenly means much more. That's not a bag of flesh, that's Alphonse. So we spend a lot of time coming up with names.

One way to name something is to be descriptive. In a computer program, you might name a variable that controls the color of a button buttonColor. Still, taken to the logical extreme, as is the case in Objective C, one ends up with names like CMMetadataFormatDescriptionCreateWithMetadataFormatDescriptionAndMetadataSpecifications.

Or you could name things after yourself. Why waste your parents' hard work? One example I remember from early in graduate school was Polo Chau's Polonium. Lots of companies are named after their founders: Hewlett Packard, Bain & Company, Boeing, Johnson & Johnson.

It's also okay not to have a super-thought-out explanation for a name. Our cat's name is Marble, even though he's not a marble tabby and doesn't look anything like a marble. Nabi – another name we considered – is Korean for butterfly. We thought that we'd come up with a relatively original name for a cat, but Nabi happens to be the most popular cat name in South Korea. In either case, just like Marble isn't actually a small glass sphere, surely cats named Nabi don't all have iridescent wings and emerge from cocoons.

  1. Why is this blog called Pauses? Because it's a chance for me to pause, look up, and take stock of what's going on.