Cars, Guitars, and Computers: Why do we name inanimate objects?

I mentioned in my last post that my car is named EDI (pronounced "Ee-dee.")  The name was inspired by the Mass Effect video games.  I've been thinking about that for a few days now- not Mass Effect, but naming inanimate objects.

I always name things.  I never liked baby dolls, but gosh, any inanimate object I get attached to earns a name.  For example:

Old car - Tribble.  The Finance guy at the Hyundai dealership kept a plush Tribble from Star Trek in his desk.  He showed it to me while I was sobbing over my daunting life decisions. I am grateful for his kindness, and totally not embarrassed by this story.  I swear.
New car - EDI.  My hybrid is sleek, she's silver, she's high-tech, she talks, and- I'll say it- she's sexy, just like the sci-fi android.
Sewing machine - Yuki Sohma. I was an anime junkie at the time, and "Sohma" sounds like "sew."  Oddly, I've never actually seen Fruits Basket.
Serger - Tali. Again, from Mass Effect.  Her anatomy is alien, and she's always sick.
Dressform - Margie. She's constantly wearing Margaery Tyrell's clothing from Game of Thrones, because I will apparently never finish that costume.
Musical instruments - Envy, Ivy, Mordecai, Abigail...

...and so on.  I'm not alone, either.  When I posted about this phenomenon on Facebook and Twitter, I got a HUGE response.  Here are a few of my favorites:

"My friend's car is named Rory because it has been killed several times in accidents but has kept her safe every time, and keeps coming back to life." - Rebecca S

"I named my first laptop Kyprioth, after Tamora Pierce's trickster god. It was a mistake.  Kyprioth really only chose to work at certain times." - Laura

"My dress form is named Rosie, after Gypsy Rose Lee - because her job is to get dressed and then strip." - Wendy W

The stories go on.  So, why do we do this?  Why do we insist on naming lifeless objects?  I have my theories.

1. Naming an object makes us care about it.  We name babies.  We name pets.  Basically, we name the things we care for, nurture, and spend time with.  Why not important possessions?  Many car owners use their vehicles daily.  Some musicians play their instruments not only as a hobby, but also for their careers.  We develop surprisingly intimate relationships with our favorite things.  A name equals love.

2. Naming an object makes it relatable.  Inanimate objects have no feelings or intent.  However, humans possess both of these.  We understand the world and justify events through these lenses.  So, when things go wrong, it's easy (and fun) to say "My computer, Loki, is being a jerk.  He's not talking to Thor the wireless router again. Boo!"  The truth is boring.  Sometimes, technology breaks.  Things go wrong for no reason.  We hate that.  So, we use names to spin these tales.

3. Naming an object is fun.  ...Did you NOT just read about a fight between Loki the computer and Thor the wireless router?

TL;DR, Naming inanimate objects brings them closer to humanness.

So, let's discuss!  Do any of your favorite possessions have names?  How are they significant?  Do you have an inanimate object that "named itself?"  Share your story below!


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Filed under: Editorial

Tags: names, naming

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