What IS that called?

Nomenclature is “the devising or choosing of names for things, especially in a science or other discipline.” Also, “the term or terms applied to someone or something.” For example, “Customers” was preferred to the original nomenclature “passengers.”

I think a lot about what you call things, groups, and places and how difficult it is to change verbiage, especially when you get older. In the late 1960s, one of grandma Williams’ other grandchildren used to harass her when she referred to “colored” people. The child would say, “What color ARE you?” My grandma would sheepishly say, “Black.”

It’s challenging to change those brain synapses. Grandma Williams also used to call stores by their previous names, which they had not been called for over a decade.

I have become my grandmother. There’s a restaurant in Albany less than a block from where I lived in the mid-1980s. I went there at least six times annually for about five years. It changed ownership and name in 2017. I had been there once before, pre-pandemic. Yet it took me five minutes and a movie mnemonic to summon the new name.

What we call people

Three of my friends have children whose pronouns have changed. At least two of them have periodic trouble remembering, which is understandable. The real issue is how patient the child is with the parent, which sometimes is not so much.

I have an acquaintance of about 40 who changed their name and pronouns. The pronoun was no big deal to me, but the new name? I can’t get it into the brain. But because this person is older, they’ve shown grace in understanding that change is difficult to absorb.

Mental retardation is now an intellectual disability; there are now several preferred terms for people with disabilities. And I try to adhere to all of them, but sometimes, I forget.

The gender-neutral terms in employment, such as flight attendant, police officer, and firefighter, seemed so evident that it gave me almost no difficulty.


Somehow, place changes have been easier for me, perhaps because I don’t use them that often. It was no big deal when Upper Volta became Burkina Faso, or Southern Rhodesia was renamed Zimbabwe. Peking is now Beijing, Bombay is now Mumbai; no prob. Until 2022, I had no idea Kiev should be Kyiv, but the transition wasn’t difficult.

How are you with changes in nomenclature?

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