Nine months ago I got the news and I knew everything was going to change.
And now here we are, exhausted and bleary-eyed, holding the wonder we have created. As I look down on our little miracle I hold softly cradled in my arms I think ahead. Yes, I made a part. I want the best for my little part, I want to give it the brightest future and the best opportunities. The first step to giving my part a leg up is to give it a great name.
First Name – The Table Rule
The first name of the part should describe it in the most direct way. For example, the clearest and simplest way to address a person is by their first name. If someone called out “Dan”, even a person I didn’t know, I would turn to see who called my name.
One could accurately call me by a nickname, attribute or title. Hey guy, dude, blogger, triathlete, bro, d-train, husband, engineer and so on. None of these titles though are accurate enough to grab my attention.
How would the part you are naming introduce itself at a party full of parts? It wouldn’t say I’m “sheet metal” or I’m “angular bends“ or I’m “boxy thing” or I’m “Holey Plate” or I’m “326 grams”. While technically accurate, those names don’t get to the heart of what the part’s purpose is. It would say, “I’m Mounting Bracket, you can call me Brack”. Sup, Brack I’m Axle and this is Gus(set).
If the item you are naming was on a table of assorted different items, this would be what you’d call it when requesting someone to hand it to you. Additional specificity isn’t needed (yet) because seeing the item provides context. “Please hand me that wrench,” is descriptive enough without calling out the style or size when there is only one wrench available.
Aside – One- or Two-word Name?
A common misconception is that every part’s name should be only one word. There are many instances when a two-word grouping should be used instead of a single word. The first instance is when the commonly accepted name is what is called an open compound word. Referring back to the table rule, would someone else understand what you mean by the single word name? For example, “Please grab me the iron,” would cause confusion if you wanted a “soldering iron.” Or it would be unclear to ask “Can I please see that hammer,” if your intent is to see baggy panted 1980s dance and rap icon MC Hammer. Hot dog or vice president
If you use a one-word name conversationally, would it be clear what you meant? Some words are so broad that they cross categories. A nut can be a kind of fastener or a healthy snack.
A compound noun or noun phrase
Iron —> soldering iron
Nuts —> Macadamia nuts
Bag —> Teabag
Printer —> 3D printer
Often, the reason two words are used is because a qualifying word is needed. For example, deadly robot. The word “deadly” qualifies the word “robot” and thus forms a qualifying phrase. Qualifying phrases are important to avoid confusion such as in the instance of “Robot, deadly, not” versus “robot, not deadly”. Is the robot not deadly or not a robot? Only one way to find out, start hurling insults at the robot and slander the character of its family.
Follow up Names – The Store Rule
A second name is needed when, instead of items of different types, there are items of the same class/category that require further differentiation. This will always be the case unless you work for a business that sells exactly and only one item or has developed a product with Bieber or Gaga level iconic one name recognition status.
A store will have multiple versions of a given item, a restaurant will have variations of a dish, and George Foreman’s house will have five children named George Edward Forman. The second name begins to distinguish the item from other items of the same type when there isn’t visual or other context to aid.
Ultimately, the goal is a name chain that stands alone without any context. If someone goes on a coffee run and you don’t specify your order, you are liable to get a small pumpkin spice latte “coffee” when you wanted a large nitro cold brew “coffee”. From coffee to tacos to manufactured parts, when what we require is something specific then the way we describe it must also be specific.
Part naming is the opposite of how we speak in English. We speak in ascending order of importance (large, nitro, cold-brew coffee) and we name in descending (coffee, cold brew, nitro, large). With the exception, of course, being master Yoda. “Coffee. Cold-brew. Nitro. Large. Yes, Hrmmm.” Tip: Don’t let Yoda get a large — that dude is way too caffeinated already. Also, counterintuitively he prefers a “dark” roast.
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