Monday, July 30, 2012

Name and Titles

I've been thinking about titles and names lately.

Part of starting a new blog is creating a name for it. I don't know about other people, but I have a hard time coming up with good names. Blogs, school essays, video game characters, you name it, I have a hard time naming it. And I actually do think I know something about other people's naming habits, but more on that later.

As I was titling my blog, I had a few things going through my mind. I though about a descriptive/self-deprecating name. "Adventures of a Dilettante" or something like that. That'll tell people that I write about a wide range of subjects and that I don't take myself to seriously. Who am I kidding? I DO take myself too seriously. Okay, scratch that name, I certainly can't have a title like "The Best Blog" or "I'm Pretty Awesome" or "Please Read Me". I don't want a vague name like "Thoughts" or "My Feelings About Some Things". So I setting for "Do I Have To?" It seems to encapsulate my state of mind on any given day, so maybe it'll grow on me as a name. Or maybe I'll grow out of it.

My good friend Terese has a great name for her blog: "You'll Be Fine, I Promise". She even has a great story behind why she chose that name. I won't spoil the story; she tells it better than I could, anyway. You should read it for yourself, and while you're at it, read the rest of her blog too. She's been tremendously supportive of my fledgling efforts here, and she tells a good story. I'm hoping that sticking at this long enough will result in a great story that can turn into a great name.

The issue of names came up again last week when I joined the office softball team. We had to choose a name for the public park league we joined. Our organizer put out a call for team name ideas, and the names started rolling in. No Homers. Showing Signs of Fatigue. Old and Flabby. Lowered Expectations. Out of Breath. There's obviously a theme here. We settled on Scared Hitless.

One of our office managers quite unintentionally explained the real trouble with titles and names when he heard our team name. He said, "Scared Hitless! I love it! Underpromise and overdeliver. That's the way to go!" I want to avoid broad generalizations, so I'll mainly speak for our little softball team, but I think we might be able to extrapolate outward a bit to portions of my generation without ruffling too many feathers -- The lower you set the bar for achievement, the more pride you can take in failure. "Sure, we didn't win a single game, but look at us! We're Scared Hitless, and we actually got a few hits! We're winners!"

Maybe underpromising and overdelivering is a useful strategy for managing expectations (It certainly worked for Scotty on the U.S.S. Enterprise), but our name feels a bit like the softball equivalent of a straw man argument. I don't mean to say that I'm part of a generation of losers trying to convince everyone that losing is okay. I just see a lot of cynics around me (and in the mirror).

There's no grand realization or plan here. Based on some of the name choices I see, I and many of the people I interact with would rather succeed cynically than fail earnestly. Earnest people get ridiculed for being naive or old-fashioned or just uncool. Cynics are presumably intelligent enough not to be earnest.

Maybe we've bought in too much to the concepts of success and failure. Or maybe our cynical attitudes are merely a manifestation of our rejection of the success/failure dichotomy.

Sometimes I read too much into things. Maybe it's just funny for out of shape geeks to drag their pregnancy bellies around a softball field. As Freud probably didn't actually say, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." 

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