A cat I used to know named Jimmy “Preacher” Robins shared this nugget of wisdom with me:
“If you name it, you can claim it.”
Preacher was an uber-talented, street-wise, underground musician. He knew what he was talking about. He know about appropriation, the relationship between naming and ownership in the market, and how this simple act could create the perception of invention.
Said another way, if you can package it, it’s yours to sell.
But naming is a sacred act. It can be so powerful as to bestow meaning upon whatever is being named.
Advertisers know this well. They use powerful language and imagery to convey the values they want us to associate with their products – the things they have named. Soon, we automatically have these associations, and they are difficult to break.
Indeed, I’ve been pretty outspoken about my disdain for labels. Labels have a restrictive, even oppressive, connotation. I wonder if my disdain isn’t for the label themselves, but for the flagrant, manipulative, even violent use of them.
I’m thinking of what it means to be given a name that empowers, uplifts, encourages, emboldens, and is truthful. I’m thinking of what happens when that same act of naming demeans, discourages, or injures.
Which one would we rather take part in?