Determining the identity of the thing, document, information component, or data item we need is not always enough. We often need to give that resource a name, a label that will help us understand and talk about what it is. But naming is not just the simple task of assigning a sequence of characters. In this section, we will discuss why we name, some of the problems with naming, and the principles that help us name things in useful ways.
When a child is born, its parents give it a name, often a very stressful and contentious decision. Names serve to distinguish one person from another. Names also, intentionally or unintentionally, suggest characteristics or aspirations. The name given to us at birth is just one of the names we will be identified with during our lifetimes. We have nicknames, names we use professionally, names we use with friends, and names we use online. Our banks, our schools, and our governments will know who we are because of numbers they associate with our names. As long as it serves its purpose to identify you, your name could be anything.160[Law]
[Law] Well, maybe not anything. Books list traditional meanings of various names, charts rank names by popularity in different eras, and dozens of websites tout themselves as the place to find a special and unique name. See for historical trends about baby names in the US with an interactive visualization at