Yesterday, in line at the grocery store, I asked the guy ahead of me for a "stick thingy" so that I could put my groceries down on the conveyer belt. He replied, "certainly, but isn't it funny that we don't have a name for this thing." He went on to muse, "I mean I touch these things 100 times more often than I do a barrel and yet I know the name for a barrel". I replied that I am sure it has a name. It must. "Someone applied for a patent and people somewhere are checking a box beside item # such such to order one of these such and such things".
Finally, I argued, "They don't just come with the store."
Intrigued, I embarked on a new quest, I went home and instead of wondering any longer, I googled it. It turns out that those "thingies" do have a name. They are called by some a "grocery divider bar". It is a very hefty title for such a lowly item. I say, though, it deserves a nick name at the very least, better than thingy, but not as clunky as grocery divider bar. And yes, there is a box you can tick beside it and yes, you can order them for as low as $1.20 per divider bar. And yes, more than one person makes a living selling them.
It is satisfying knowing the name of things. Knowing a name for a thing puts it and all the other people who either make it or handle it, into focus. Will knowing those names change my life? No, of course not, but it continues to astound me that in a world where so much can be known we choose so consciously and, many times unknowingly, what to know and not know. We insist on naming things. Naming is part of knowing, but also owning and organizing and controlling and yet there are so many words and things jumbled up in our lives, we cannot always be bothered to know all of them.