The Creative Power of Naming

The ability to name is surely one of the great intellectual leaps of humankind. This is vividly illustrated in an extract of the uplifting poetry of the Kato Indians, an account of genesis: "Woodpeckers were not they say. Then wrens were not they say. Then hummingbirds were not they say. Then otters were not they say. Then jackrabbits, grey squirrels were not they say ... Then clouds were not they say. Fog was not they say. It didn't appear they say. Stars were not they say. It was very dark."

Richard Gallagher
Sep 29, 2002

The ability to name is surely one of the great intellectual leaps of humankind. This is vividly illustrated in an extract of the uplifting poetry of the Kato Indians, an account of genesis:

"Woodpeckers were not they say. Then wrens were not they say. Then hummingbirds were not they say. Then otters were not they say. Then jackrabbits, grey squirrels were not they say ... Then clouds were not they say. Fog was not they say. It didn't appear they say. Stars were not they say. It was very dark."1

In biology too, bestowing an identity is a notable event. Naming species and genes springs to mind. Gene designators often eschew the sober approach (such as SLC26A3: solute carrier family 26, member 3) for a Kato-like 'they do' system that describes a mutant phenotype. Thus, a Sunday driver mutant messes up intracellular traffic in Drosophila; a Cerberus...