What's in a Name?
Naming is an act of power. In Genesis Adam's first recorded act of domination is naming, assigning the symbol, the act of a I-am-he-who-tells-you-what-orwho-you-are. It is the ultimate gesture of paternalism. The infant child is named. Similarly the first response to the other, to the outsider, is to assign a name. The one who assigns is the insider, the decider, the winner. ( Judge Gary Strankman on the occasion of the naming of Ishi Court at the University of California, Berkeley, 1993; cited by Hinton, 1994, p. 155)
In this opening quotation Judge Gary Strankman was commenting on the balance of power in colonial California at a time when the indigenous Indian population became subordinated to the expanding White settlers. There is little question who were the winners, who were the namers, and who were the named. Although not addressing gender specifically, his remarks draw our attention again to the connections between race, gender, and power, and how paternalism has defined women in its own terms as others and outsiders. The names we give to things are not arbitrary. In this chapter I explore the significance of naming. I also show how the intellectual foundations of linguistics based on the principle of arbitrariness of the linguistic sign and theories of markedness have discriminated against women.
Do you remember the childhood taunt usually said by one child who has been called a bad name by another, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me"? Names do have the power to hurt