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Jane Bates: Word perfect

Jane Bates ponders the power of a name.

Jane Bates ponders the power of a name

I crept up on the creature, silent as a snake, then snapped. I caught it – the perfect photograph of the perfect butterfly. I realised immediately it was a rare specimen.

Feeling more pleased with myself than David Cameron on the morning of May 8, I shared the picture with my wildlife-loving friends. We then spent a happy afternoon rifling through books and on the internet trying to identify it.

A Duke of Burgundy, said one. A dark green fritillary, said another. And then it suddenly struck me as absurd. Why do we get so much satisfaction from designating things?

In the Garden of Eden, we’re told, Adam gave names to all the birds and beasts. Humans have even named obscure bits of rock orbiting obscure planets, but why?

After many years I now appreciate that

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