Daniel S. Griffin home about me


3 June 2015 - Berkeley

A line from Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges with reference to the importance of having a name:

Once they1 had tried to set up a purely operational definition of Special Relativity, and when one of them objected that there was no such thing as a rigid body in relativity, Alan said, ‘Well, let’s call them squeegees.’

       1. Alan Turing, Robin Gandy, and Keith Roberts

This reminded me of what Eponymous told Laurie in Carlos Bueno’s Lauren Ipsum:

“Names are very important! A thing without a name is like a pot without a handle. Just try telling a story about turtles without using the word ‘turtle’.”

As she later put it to herself:

“Don’t let a new thing out of your sight without a name.”

In his 1890 book The Principles of Psychology, William James wrote:

“Whenever we have made a word, they say, to denote a certain group of phenomena, we are prone to suppose a substantive entity existing beyond the phenomena, of which the word shall be the name. But the lack of a word quite as often leads to the directly opposite error.” [emphasis in original]

See also: slithy toves

Edited 12 June 2015: added quote from William James