What's in a name

by Paul Burmeister

I am prone to anxiety resulting from my perceptions of abuse perpetrated by exercises of nominalism and equivocation. Today's New York Times includes two stories about naming. First, on A3, it's announced that thyroid tumors have been downgraded; they will no longer be classified as cancer. What had been called "encapsulated follicular variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma" will now be referred to as "noninvasive follicular thyroid neoplasm with papillary-like nuclear features." I am not making light of this. The domains of science, where names have crucial significance, have little use for rhetorical devices. Second, on A12, there is a story about the Czech Republic's desire to change its name to Czechia. While this effort, with its impassioned voices on all sides, has motivation related to branding or identity, I think the debate is good to remind us of the importance of names.