What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet)

Remember in summer camp when you’d all have to stand around in a circle catching a ball and calling out each other’s names? How about the first day of school when your parents labelled all your clothing, shoes and lunch bag? As a fairly unique identifier (apologies to the John Smiths out there), your name helps other people relate to you, talk about you, look you up on facebook, yell at you from across a crowded room and identify your work. As a species, we name people, we name animals, we name plants, we name places, we even name stars. Naming is something we do, and we do it a lot.

My 15 month old has begun the fascinating – albeit somewhat exhausting – process of learning to name things and people. Dada and Cheese are the easiest to identify. I will often carry him around, as he points to various objects expecting an assigned name. “Assat?” “Assat?”  It makes me think about the first things we are teaching him. Which names are the most significant?

I have seen studies that show that children can name ridiculous numbers of corporate logos and cartoon characters, while failing to identify even the most basic plants and animals.

Perhaps you were wondering when I’d get to that. This blog is about children and nature after all. So, what’s in a name? A rose by any other name may smell as sweet. However, without knowing it is a rose, we might not know to stop and smell it.

Last year, my 5 year old and I started to learn to identify some of the wildflowImageers that we would see on our walks. We took pictures and small samples, got out the Audubon field guide, and slowly started to gather new knowledge on every walk. Every time we learned a new plant or animal, it ceased to be merely a part of the landscape, and became a familiar friend.

Although I have a degree in Biology, this is one area where my education was severely lacking. I would love to be able to walk through the forest and casually identify all of the plants and animals we pass on the way. I would love (even more) to see my children do the same thing. So, to this end, I am going to start a new project on this blog.

Introducing:  Species of the week!

At the end of every blog post (let’s pretend they’re weekly), I intend to talk about a different local species. (Or I might do separate posts… this idea is still developing). It might be a new one, or it might be a familiar one. I will include a (poorly-taken, phone-camera-quality) picture and a little information to help identify the plant or animal. I’m also going to try not to sound like a field guide. This is mostly for my own benefit, but I hope to use this blog as motivation. Perhaps you can share your own experiences with the species I find.

Oh… just for the record, I’m starting next time. 🙂


Posted on May 22, 2013, in Species of the week, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Cool idea! We do a lot of hikes and nature walks, and I always wish that I knew more about the plants I see. Particularly now that we’re in a completely new part of the country- even the trees are different here. You’ve inspired me to do something similar 🙂


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