So, here we are, Shelly (not that Shelly the other Shelly) and I, and we are working feverishly as the end of term approaches. The phone rings, and the IT coordinator and she are discussing “Poor Helen.” The debate ranged as to whether or not Helen has dementia or if she has Alzheimer’s. Either way, Helen is on her way out. We are just doing the best we can to see her through the end of the year.
The thing is, Helen is a computer, not a person. Each computer in the office is named after some literary character. Helen was from the Iliad, Helen of Troy. We also have a Pip, Hamlet, Atticus, Daisy…you get the idea. This is what happens when Literature majors are in a small space.
It got me to thinking. We name things…things, not just pets or people. By anthropomorphizing objects today we are giving human characteristics to what would otherwise be objects…and so does it follow the objects take on the traits of what they are named, or are we simply naming the object as we do given the trait?
How many people name their cars? I know I am not alone. I named mine Isis2 (the first car was Isis). It made sense to me, Isis or Hermes, since both are known for guiding travelers and the dead, mythologically speaking. So far, so good.
This habit of naming things is so much a part of our culture that it is also seen in film and television.
In Farscape (canceled now) the main character, John Crichton (astronaut), names his favorite pulse-pistol “Winona.” He makes a fuss that she is the best and most reliable, even when she isn’t. He defends his “girl” as any good boyfriend would.
Then there is Malcolm Reynold’s ship “Serenity” in the show Firefly. Granted, the name is less “human” but he still treats his ship as a person. It isn’t the ship’s fault when there are issues–it is the mechanic or the pilot’s fault (Kaylee or Wash): “She ain’t going down. If she goes down, you crashed her.” (Also both shows have some great lines…but that is another story.)
People name objects–but why? Are we that attached to them (objects) more in today’s culture? Is possession so important to us that we want to make objects slave-like or brand them? Or is it the opposite: do we relate more to objects now (computers, cars and phones) more than we do people?
Just a musing for you.
Meantime, for a little more Sci-Fi humor, here is one of my favorite exchanges between the human-like Sebacean Aeryn Sun and John Crichton:
Aeryn Sun: “She gives me a woody.”
[Crichton looks at her]
Aeryn Sun: “Woody. It’s a human saying. I’ve heard you say it often. When you don’t trust someone or they make you nervous, they give you…”
John Crichton: “Willies. She gives you the willies.”