On Names

15 May

I have been thinking a lot about names lately. Names are important choices for projects. I try to come up with evocative names for my software projects like flashbake and Clockwork Daydream. There is probably an entire field of sociological research in the naming of free software and open source projects. All of my beer names, as my last post hopefully demonstrated, are very meaningful to me.

That being said, I didn’t make a good choice in naming this project. A friend pointed out a possible misinterpretation that isn’t easily answered through explaining my intent. The site’s name was an inside joke, to boot, which is rarely a good choice in my experience. Jokes limited to a specific set of people, from a specific time and place are not likely to resonant, often requiring too much explanation.

Most importantly, the story of the site’s old name is closely associated with a part of my life that has pretty much come to a close. I have grown apart from the people involved in that story, for a variety of reasons both good and bad. The social milieu around the story, I have left after many years of not quite fitting in.

Given pause to think about the name, I realized that using it for this project felt overly nostalgic. Realizing it was really nothing better than a placeholder, an echo of another time and place, it didn’t make sense to try to address criticisms of the name. I am enjoying this site, despite the small number of posts so far. There is more to it, check out the lifestream category other there in the sidebar. I finally feel like I have a bead on what I want to say here, a sense that emerged mostly while writing and editing that last post.

Having chosen poorly at the start, now seems like a good time for a more deliberate name. The site is still forming but not really established in content or tone. Despite that, I do have a clearer picture in mind. Choosing a more apt name now feels right.

For my beer names, I take inspiration from thinkers from the Scottish Enlightenment and the America Revolution. There is a certain poetry and elegance in their writing that appeals to me immensely. I am drawn to their aspirations (if not all aspects of their practical reality) in particular the ascendancy of knowledge and reason coupled with a profound faith in the inherent better nature of humankind.

Since I have spent and plan to spend so much time exploring, among many other things, my passion as a brewer, this seemed like a good inspiration for the name of this site, too. My beer names come from quotes but I could not find a quote from which I could draw. None of the ones I found in several hours searching captured the right sentiment, representing my hopes for this site in a breath.

So I improvised a bit and came up with “Of a Peculiar Character.” I like that it is a mild pun, that could be read a couple of ways: that I am an oddball or my pursuits are of an unusual sort. Both are true. In the intro of my decade long podcast, for years I have called myself an eccentric. Certainly the things that interest me don’t fall into an easily explained or understood range.

I am going to completely overhaul the labels for my beer, to match: “Beers of a Peculiar Character.” To foster a closer association between my homebrew and this site, I am even thinking about QR codes on the labels and dedicated pages that collect that seems appropriate–my writings about each beer, its recipe, etc.

To me, the sound and cadence of the name seems to fit well with the material from which I draw my beer names. Peculiar is a bit of an archaic word without strong positive or negative connotations that could be misconstrued. I have grown convinced that there is no such thing as normal, worse that the very idea is problematic. So maybe peculiar will do, that all of us together have in common that we are peculiar but each of us is so in our own unique way. I debated on using much more recognizable words in place of character, like virtue, reason or principles. Character speaks strongly to the last of these while inviting a bit of playful ambiguity.

My intent with the re-christened site is to explore my own peculiar character, especially those aspects even more diverse and harder to define than the ones I explore on my other site (mostly professional and of technological leaning.) I’ll continue to share my thoughts on home brewing and beer, as these are entrenched passions, but this new name, this re-framing, admits so much more that I’d love to share, from food, music and travel, to even the very nature of character and reason.

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