The naming of things is a difficult matter

I’ve been pondering recently – why do we have ‘shorthand’ names for some places and people but not for others?

At work, for example we have The Coffee Man, Sandwich Man (or occasionally Sandwich Lady), Sewing Lady and CityLink Man. Then there’s The Book People, who have cut out the middle man and handily named their business with the appropriate shortcut. 

Everyone at work knows where The Octagon and The Chapel are, but we can’t come up with a better name for where Production sit than ‘at the bottom of the stairs near the back door’.  I also don’t recall anyone coming up with a handy moniker for the man who delivers lunches for meetings or the cleaning company’s team leader.

At the stables, there’s The Back Lady (the equine physiotherapist, just back from tending the British mounts at the Olympics) and The Feed Man (the lorry driver from the feed merchants), plus Top Land, Bottom Land and Third Field, but the blacksmith is not called The Shoeing Man, nor the instructor The Teaching Lady.

Which reminds me of how the announcement of the arrival of The Sandwich Man can be a good guide to the culture of a business.  At my last agency, the reception staff were ex-cabin crew, resulting in daily tannoys that ran (complete with authentic bing bong noise), “would all staff please be advised that sandwiches are now available in the café area”.  At my current place, we get an all users email that simply reads ‘the sandwich man is here’.  :-)

One thought on “The naming of things is a difficult matter

  1. Cannot speak, I’m afraid, to the office environment, but I suspect we tend to name things about which we feel particularly strong – those things, places and people we like or dislike – while eschewing nicknames for those people, places and things about which we simply do not feel much at all.

    This seems to be true in sport, as well, where we have nicknames for heroes and villians, but not for the great balance of players.

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