She drove home with Rhonda, but at the end of the day, Sarah Adams enters her apartment with Fritzwilliam, and sees Hunter V lying on the couch, just where she left him.
Rhonda is not a girlfriend or roommate. Fritzwilliam is not Adams’ boyfriend and Hunter V is not a freeloader hanging around her apartment. In fact, they are not even people. Rhonda is Adams’ truck, Fritzwilliam is her phone and Hunter V is her laptop.
Students across BYU, as well as people around the world, are naming their inanimate objects, and the trend is growing. Many groups on Facebook, as well as threads on Yelp, exist to help instruct how to name things, as well as to offer forums to share creative names.
Adams, a 22-year-old from Medford, Ore., majoring in food science, began naming things when she got her first car, a Pontiac Fiero named Ponty, when she was 16.
“The car seemed to have a personality, one of the headlights wouldn’t come up, so it was always winking at me unless I fixed it,” Adams said. “Cars in general, I think, have personalities more than other things do.”
Although she has named many of her possessions, she said she only names things which seem to have a personality. When she decides an object has enough of a personality that it deserves a name, Adams names it cautiously. She said she will not name anything unless it fits the item completely.
Although not embarrassed by this habit, Adams said she usually will only address her car, not her iPod or phone by name in front of others.
“The car gets a lot of people confused, because people are like, ‘Rhonda, who’s Rhonda?'” Adams said. “Then when they finally ride in her they realize she definitely has her own personality.”
Alex Melendez, 18, from Houston, said she does not always like when people name their things.
“Naming something that’s valuable, like an instrument or car, seems pretty reasonable,” Melendez said. “Something little though, like I had a friend who named a pen … that doesn’t really make sense. I think it just depends on what you’re naming.”
The habit can seem funny and trivial, but BYU psychology professor Harold Miller said it could represent more, and this personification of inanimate objects is almost the exact opposite of objectifying people.
Miller said he was unaware of any negative effects on people who name their things, but thinks it may make people more attached to whatever the object is, as if it was a pet.
“Naming things creates an identifiable relationship with an object,” Miller said. “It makes them feel more comfortable interacting with them.”
Robert Ridge, a psychology professor, echoed Miller’s idea that it may show comfort with an object, and represent more of a partnership with an item, rather than ownership. He also said he does not think it is a bad behavior, but more of an evolution.
“We name animals; they’re not human but they’re living beings, so we give them names and ascribe personalities to them,” Ridge said. “Maybe it’s just sort of the natural next step, thinking ‘I really like this, it’s really faithful, we’re almost like good friends,’ so you give it a name.”