Name It

Words pull ideas out of the abstract.

That’s a fancy way to say that by being able to describe something, you can bring it into existence or at least into your awareness.

I’ve noticed this many times in my life. I’ll stumble upon an idea with a name - often these are things that end in ‘law’ (eg. Parkinson’s Law), ‘principle’ (Pareto Principle), or ‘effect’ (Dunning-Kruger Effect) - and by being able to name it, an idea that’s always been there enters my awareness.

Some people have a talent for this. They name their own beliefs and philosophies.

And words also have varying levels of precision.

I’m married to a native Korean speaker and she’ll sometimes express frustration about how limited English is to say the particular type of hunger she has in the moment (you know, “the hunger you get in the winter when it’s raining and you really need hot soup!”) or even a specific shade of purple.

Another famous example that gets thrown around is that eskimos have 50 different words for snow. Imagine how that would shape your understanding of what it means to be snowing - is it light snow? Heavy snow? Snow with wind? And 47 more ways that I can’t possibly think of right now.

By being able to name something and describe something with precision, you can now act on or make decisions around that thing.

To use an example I gave previously, when I first learned about Parkinson’s Law (the idea that a resource expands to fill the space given to it - whether time, money, food, anything), I realized it’s existence in my own psychology and others’. Of course, it had always been there, but by giving it a nice little package (that is, a name), I now have language to think about it, anticipate it, and harness it for a positive or negative outcome.

So, for all these reasons, it’s a valuable exercise to name things and ideas descriptively, uniquely, and precisely.

You'll only receive email when they publish something new.

More from Ross Zeiger
All posts