And so we come to the naming of names..


Isaac-Cordal-14

A large majority of attempts at sociable communications begin with a name: ‘Hi, I’m Will’; ‘Hi, I’m Will Buckley’; ‘Hi I’m William J Buckley’; ‘Hi, I’m William J Buckley of Buckley Bracondale’. How we introduce ourselves can be something of a tell. To me, less is more. I don’t need to know someone’s surname, the company he works for, or, particularly, his middle initial before deciding whether it is worth talking to him for a couple of minutes in order to decide whether to talk to him some more. All of these details fit readily into the category of too much information.

If someone includes his surname by way of introduction he is hinting that I should have heard of him and/or that we were at school together and he has yet to move on. If he mentions his company he is indicating that he is more comfortable talking about his work than himself and/or that he will be trying to sell me something any time very soon. If he mentions his middle initial…well, frankly, I’d prefer to hear about his most recent colonoscopy.

A first name should suffice (although be wary if you are called Linda or Sandy or Alice or Elaine or Lauren and happen to be in Saudi Arabia on official business as they are among 50 first names banned by the Ministry for the Interior so unlikely to go down a storm. (see http://tinyurl.com/m55ntfp))

And it’s not just people’s names that can make a difference. The naming of things can be even more important. Take perhaps the most important issue of our time: climate change or, if you prefer, global warming. Whichever term you use it doesn’t seem a natural fit for a potential global catastrophe. Climate is a benign word and change usually perceived to be a good thing (‘a change for the better’ attracts ten times more google matches than ‘a change for the worse’). Likewise, global is good and warming is better. Could it be that a more extreme nomeclature might have more effect. The ‘marketing guru’ Seth Godin (author of Purple Cow) has written ‘if the problem were called “atmosphere cancer” or “pollution death” the entire conversation would be framed in a different way’. The acclaimed environmental writer Robert Butler suggested a few years ago that Klimakatastrophe would be a more appropriate term, noting that it was Germany’s word of the year in 2007 (previous winners include Sparpaket – austerity package, and Politikverdrossenheit – indifference to politics).

All of which may be true, but as nation branding expert Simon Anholt argues and Butler agrees, ‘we don’t need a worse word for the problem we need a better word for the solution’. But what might that word be?

Do tweet me your suggestions….

 

 

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