Naming Inanimate Objects

May 1, 2014 — 13 Comments

PENTAX ImageDo you ever talk to inanimate or non-sentient objects? My wife often talks to her computer, and though she is never vulgar, the conversation is rarely pretty.

There is a current advertisement featuring the slightly off Gary Busey, in which he says, “If you’re like me, you like to talk to things.” His gaze drifts to the side, and he adds, “Hello lamp.” Smiling after greeting his tabletop light source, he drops his gaze and gets an expression like someone who has just encountered a long lost friend. “Hello, pants.”

It’s quite bizarre, but rather humorous in an oddly disconcerting way.

My wife and I named the first car we owned. It was an orange Gremlin. Newlyweds, and still in college, we named it Hezekiah in the hopes that it would “live” long.

In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.’” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, saying, “Now, O Lord, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.”

And Hezekiah wept bitterly. And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the leader of my people, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord, and I will add fifteen years to your life. (2 Kings 20).

A recent survey in the United States found that nearly a quarter of the population give their rides a name. Younger drivers (18-34) do so more frequently than their parents, with 36 percent giving their cars a personal name. “Hello, car.”

A British poll found that women are more likely than men to attribute personality to their cars, with 60 percent naming their rides compared with 41 percent of men.

The higher likelihood of a British car being named than its American cousin does not surprise me. After all, we learned during our three years in the United Kingdom that they even name their houses. We lived on a family farm near Newbury while stationed at RAF Greenham Common. There were several domiciles on the farm, each with its respective appellation. We resided in “New House,” which was ironically a good thirty years old.

C.S. Lewis’ house in Oxford had a name. “The Kilns” received its distinctive name when it was built on the site of a former brickworks. There is a small lake nearby, which was originally the clay pit which supplied the kilns.

In the United States I suppose it’s possible to find a few places where a home has a name rather than a number. But the norm in our systematized structure is for homes to have sequential numbers. This proves quite practical for reasons such as emergency response by fire fighters, and doubtless many other countries have adopted the practice.

We’ve made the change at some cost though. Houses do have architectural character. Personalities, even. When naming houses, some might choose labels that relate to the profession of the owner. For example:

Clergy: Ascension Manor or Hosanna House

Attorney: Prosecution Place or Litigation Lodge

Physician: Resident’s Residence or Hemorrhoid Hall

If one dispenses with a requirement for alliteration as an arbitrary naming convention—the options would expand exponentially.

Sadly, we don’t get to name our houses today, unless we do so informally like one would with an automobile. We must be content for our streets to possess names while our houses must be content with numbers.

If you are interested in reading more about unusual or entertaining house names, check out this site. (It’s from the United Kingdom, of course.) Names like “Tadpole Cottage,” “Leprechaun’s Leap,” and “The Riddlepit” certainly evoke entertaining images.

Perhaps you’ll also want to consider naming your own home. It just might make your conversations with your residence a little more interesting when they no longer have to begin with “Hello, house . . .”

13 responses to Naming Inanimate Objects

  1. 

    Loved this post. Made me remember searching for a friend’s cottage in England. Imagine pulling into a convenience market and asking directions to Fishwick Bottoms!

  2. 

    We drove Blicky around for years. She was so named for the idiosyncrasy of her electronics. Now we’re driving Snowie: can you guess how it got that name?
    Growing up, I used to anthropomorphize our rented homes all the time. It was fun to imagine these venerable structures were happy to have a rambunctious family filling them with shouts and laughter. Never gave them names beyond “the white house” or ” North Side house”. If my family ever settles somewhere demi-permanently (i.e. before heaven), I just might pick out a name for our domicile.
    LOL about the lawyer’s houses! :D

    • 

      You’re validating the feminine proclivity to name houses, even when you were young… I’m considering the possibility of us naming our house now. May talk about it when we have our six youngest grandkids here for a family gathering this coming week.

      We haven’t named this house yet, but we have a natural pond at the foot of our six acres, and I did name it. Puddleglum Pond. Full of reeds and filled with a cacophony of croaking voices, the name is quite apropos.

  3. 

    This past winter we bought a new stove and the movers tossed our old stove out onto the wintery snowbank for someone to pick up the next day for recycling. I was surprised at how distraught I felt to toss my “old friend” out in the cold and made sure to say thanks for all the help it gave me in the past, as the wintery winds howled around it!! I love your blogpost – I really believe we are more connected to inanimate objects than we think.

    • 

      That’s the sort of attachment my wife had to our 1998 Sienna van when it’s transmission failed this year and it was more sensible to replace it with a new car rather than repair it. She almost mourned the fact that the companion which had seen us through several family relocations and so many years, was headed to a recycling (parts) fate. I do have some positive memories associated with my past vehicles and homes, but it’s not quite the same.

      Of course, I have to confess that Delores loves people more than I do, as a rule, so it may just be the degree of her compassion. (My wife even loves unlovable people, without having to pray, as I always need to, that God would miraculously give me an agape affection for them.)

  4. 

    I find that if I talk to my electronic devices, they tend to behave better.

  5. 

    Whimsical post. Spring must be in the air.
    Never named a car, but they are like comfortable old friends.
    Some cultures do feel everything has a spirit – so talking to objects, giving them names – could the habit be some long lost echo of early humans?
    That Busey commercial is funny….spookily real with him, though?
    Fun post (The Find a house to buy shows seem to give the houses names…but suspect that’s just the producers to add interests)

Offer a Comment or Insight

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s