On Naming Inanimate Objects

Sunny, my very first car!

My first car was named Sunny.  She was a taxi-cab yellow Mercedes Benz from the early seventies that was more than 30 years old when I bought her in college.  I sold Sunny when I moved and didn’t need a car.  But, two years later when I needed to buy another car I ended buying a red Mini Cooper with white racing stripes.  She was christened Emma.  Mr PoP’s car is Rosa, our pool vacuum was named Quattro, my old computer was named Tonto, and heck, even my first iPod (a silver iPod mini I got for free with my mac purchase in 2005!) got named.  He was Jr.  Tonto Jr if you want to be technical about it.


Are We Weird To Name Inanimate Objects?

Don’t answer that.  We realize most people don’t name their cars, much less their computers, so I guess that does make us a little weird in that department.  But what does naming these things accomplish for us?


Naming Something Establishes A Relationship

Take a farmer that raises pigs for slaughter.  He probably doesn’t name his pigs because he doesn’t want to get to know them.  Those pigs are a commodity to him.  He doesn’t want to anthropomorphize them and then have to sell them off to the slaughterhouse. But someone who owns just one or two pigs as pets has probably named them and knows their habits and the characteristics that make them unique.  The act of naming something creates a relationship that was unlikely to be there in the same way without the name.

Kitty PoP became so much more “ours” when we re-named him (the shelters around here give all the kittens names prior to adoption), and some of my friends who have kids have attested that their child felt so much more “real” (even months before birth) immediately after the couple had decided on a name.

Like any relationship, though – this relationship you can get from naming an inanimate object can have its ups and its downs.


Some of the Positives

As people, we like to form relationships, and extend them for as long as possible.  That’s what ends up happening with the us and our named “inanimates”.  We tend to keep them much longer than average.  While that may have something to do with the fact that we are cheap, I think our emotions play a role in that as well.

Tonto (my G4 Powerbook we just replaced) was my home computer for 7 years, well beyond the 3-5 years that is generally cited as the laptop life-cycle.


The Relationships Can Get Abusive, Too

Emma.  Sure, she looks cute, but she’ll start slapping you around when you least expect it!

Sometimes getting too attached to a possession can bite you in the butt.  Take my relationship with my second car, Emma, the adorable Mini Cooper.  I bought Emma straight out of grad school and cared for her meticulously.  She went to the dealership for care, and received pretty much every repair they suggested straight away.  I felt that, surely, if I take good care of my car like this, she will take good care of me, too.


The last 18 months that we owned Emma were spent throwing good money after bad as she experienced multiple VERY expensive failures.  (One major part actually had to be replaced 3 times – lucky for me 2 of them were under warranty, but it was still a huge inconvenience.)  When her clutch finally died (a complete catastrophic failure on my way to work one morning) even before we had set aside the money to get her AC compressor repaired (it had also died), it was over.  Rationally, I agreed with Mr. PoP that I needed a better (read – more reliable) car, but emotionally I felt so betrayed.  I even found myself mentally adding words like “that b****” after “Emma” when we would talk about the car.

We fixed the clutch (it couldn’t really be sold without a working clutch) and left the AC for the new owner to replace.  But other than the AC, I was convinced that Emma was worth “top dollar”.  Even after we bought a new car, it took almost 5 months for me to let go and let Mr. PoP lower her price to the point that she would sell.

I felt burned by Emma and it took a while for me to “bond” with her replacement.  She didn’t even get named immediately because I just wasn’t sure I wanted to care about cars anymore.  But she eventually earned her stripes and was christened “Lois”.  Lois and I have a fairly healthy relationship, so I guess all’s well that ends well there.

Now it’s time to find a name for my new computer (on which I am writing this post).  He (yes, computers and cats are male gendered in this house) is a 13″ MacBook Pro, so if you’ve got any name ideas we’d love to hear them!

Do you name inanimate objects like we do?  If so, what are some things that you have named – and what have you named them?  Do you think it makes you get more attached to them?  Do you think it makes financial sense or does it make it easier for emotions to get in the way of the optimum financial decisions?



19 comments to On Naming Inanimate Objects

  • Lol, you guys are silly. I have never named anything….BUT I do seem to assign gender to my cars and other items. Our Prius and minivan are both girls =)

    • Haha – I know we’re goofy, but it all kindof started with naming my bright yellow car Sunny. It was just such a natural fit. And then we got in the habit! =)

  • haha, she looks like a Sunny ! I, like Holly do not name but I definitely call things he’s and she’s.

  • “What does naming these things accomplish for us?” What an interesting question!

    Well, what does naming a dog or a cat accomplish? Makes us feel the critter is a member of the family, no?

    I called the first car I bought after freeing myself from marriage “Katydid,” because the first three letters on the license plate were KTD.

    On the Dog Chariot, the first three license-plate letters are FKW…the sobriquet that comes to mind is inappropriate, except as something to hurl at my fellow homicidal drivers.

    “Dog Chariot” is a great deal less humanizing than “Katydid.” Hm. I often thought of Katydid as vaguely alive but never thought that way about the Chariot. “Harvey the Hayward Pool Cleaner” seems to me like some sort of animate aquatic creature. Which comes first: the vague sense that an object of plastic and steel is animate, or the name that gives it the trappings of animation?

    Oddly, I never named things like cars and pool cleaners until after I got out in the world on my own. Wonder if there’s a connection? Possibly it takes a certain cast of mind or a degree of happiness (or unhappiness) to predispose one to that.

    • I truly love the name “Harvey the Hayward Pool Cleaner”.
      I never thought about using the license plate as naming inspiration for cars. Unless you want to pay a LOT of $, it’s much cheaper to keep your license plate when you get a new car in Florida… so not sure it would be quite the same.
      Interesting that you bring up that you never named anything until you were out on your own – it was the same way for us. I think it tends to play into our general goofiness and desire to have fun with life – so I hope that’s an indicator of happiness.

  • My first car was a classic muscle car that had seen better days. Her name was Maria.

    I haven’t named anything since then, but I know plenty of people who do. Interesting psychology that naming your possessions forms a greater relationship with them…seems pretty accurate.

    • “Maria was…”? Does this mean Maria is no longer?
      Maria was one of the names in contention for Mr PoP’s car… but she ended up as Rosa. And hopefully she’ll continue to last us a long time… 100K miles and counting.

  • While I do find naming your things sane, I don’t name any of my things. I’m a hoarder as it is. If I were to start naming things, I’d probably never, ever get rid of anything. I need to keep my distance and avoid emotional attachments. I suppose I’m a little shallow with my stuff.

    • I can totally understand the need to avoid adding to hoarder tendencies – I grew up with parents who had major hoarding tendencies, so I battle against it now that we’ve got our own place.

  • I actually don’t; I haven’t named anything since I had stuffed animals as a child! I definitely used to have hoarder tendencies (and admittedly if something worms its way into my house it likely won’t leave) but nowadays I’m tending more toward the minimalist end of the spectrum. Don’t bring things in in the first place and all is well.

    • Oh yes, I try so hard with the “don’t bring things in” rule. My MIL is pretty good inspiration with “things-in necessitate things-out”, but that is totally not how I was brought up so it’s a struggle.

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  • I do name things…I admit it! I had a car named Bexley–a silver Mazda 626 LX. He was a great car and he actually saved my brothers life with his airbags and brakes. My brother borrowed it because his car’s brakes weren’t working. Bexley was totalled, but his death was not in vain, haha.
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  • sarah

    Got here searching to see if naming cars and stuff was odd, i’d like to share that my first car is a 1994 nissan sentra I named Scooty Puff, because when i started driving him, the distributor cap was broken and the sounds and way it moved were pretty scooty puffy. It broke down may 2012 and i plan on repairing it as a project to learn about how cars work.

  • My wife not only names inanimate objects, she actually draws eyes on some of them (I remember our printer having eyes, which made it funny because every time it would print stuff it as if it was showing its tongue out).

    She drew eyes and a mustache on our air conditioner.

    We have a hard drive named “pakutchi”

    Can you top that?
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