The power of names over numbers & why WordPress wants to be known as Benny

WordPressWordPress has released an updated version of its blogging platform but instead of just giving its latest version a number (to become WordPress 4.0) they also gave it a name – Benny.

This is in honour of Benny Goodman, a famous jazz clarinettist and bandleader, and is intended to convey the style of its latest update. “While 4.0 is just another number for us after 3.9 and before 4.1,” said WordPress “we feel we’ve put a little extra polish into it. This release brings you a smoother writing and management experience we think you’ll enjoy.”

I’m not going to talk about whether this version is any better than the last one. I’m more interested in the power of names over numbers, and what relevance this has to communications.

By using a name, instead of a number, WordPress bestows this version with personality and personal attributes, in a way that numbers just can’t do.

By contrast, describing something by just using a number normally has the effect of depersonalising the thing you’re describing and weakening its power. Think of the campaign slogan, “don’t become just another statistic” or the opening credits of the cult Prisoner TV series, “I’m not a number, I’m a free man.”

Names on the other hand make us feel valued, special and human. Coca Cola asks us to ‘share a coke’ and includes names on its cans and bottles, while Starbucks aims to personalise its service by writing your name on the side of its coffee cups.

By knowing someone’s name you also have some control over them. This is a powerful idea that has run throughout stories over thousands of years. Take the Brothers Grimm fairy tale of Rumpelstiltskin, for example. Rumpelstiltskin has to give up his claim to the Queen’s child after she manages to correctly guess his name.

By contrast, not knowing someone’s name lessens control. I remember the supply teachers at my old school who didn’t know the names of their pupils because they were only covering for a few days. Their control was diminished because they couldn’t quickly and powerfully call out the misbehaving children individually by name.

It may be no co-incidence therefore that the newest version of WordPress is not only supposed to be more stylish, but is also meant to give you more control over your writing and publishing.

WordPress 4.0 – Benny: https://wordpress.org/news/2014/09/benny/#

Benny Goodman in action: http://youtu.be/3mJ4dpNal_k

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