What’s in a Name?

The Falcon, the Outrider, Peanut, Shadowfax, Ironhide, Rosinante, Bucephalus, Blackfyre, and Rhaegal.  Every mobility device I have used from age seven to now has had a name.  It’s interesting to me what we give names to.  Everyone names their kids. Most people name their pets and some people name their cars. Very few name their vacuums and I doubt anyone names their toothbrush. I name my power chairs.

When someone gives something a name, they are expressing how much they value it. We always give our kids names because human beings are a special sort of being that we hold in the highest value.  We see ourselves and others as one of a kind and irreplaceable.  So, we deserve a name to convey that unique value.  Anyone who has ever lost a pet also understands how they are typically irreplaceable in a similar way.  You can get a new dog, but it won’t really be a replacement for the one you lost.  You always think back about your friend from days past and how he or she accompanied you on your ups and downs. They always occupy a corner of your memory and your heart.

While cars can’t interact with us and don’t have the expressive personality of dogs or cats, they can still be an important form of self-expression.  They are not themselves unique, but they are a reflection of the owner’s uniqueness. The kind of car you drive says something about who you are and what you value. When the bachelor gets married and has a child, he trades in his coup for a minivan, expressing a shift in how he sees himself and what he finds valuable in his life. So, in a way, it still makes sense for some people to add to that self-expression with a name. My father is a big fan of naming his cars and I imagine this has something to do with why. He can look at an old picture of his forest green 1969 mustang, Herman, and think about who he was then and how that car expressed part of his personality.  He valued that car as being irreplaceable because he values that part of his life as irreplaceable.

The same is true for my scooters and wheelchairs.  The Outrider was the chair I used to go into middle school, a fraught period of life filled with obstacles that not even the zippiest scooter could weave in and out of, though it definitely helped me keep up in many ways.  Shadowfax, my first power wheelchair that I got for its better battery life and durability, helped me get around my college campus.  Rosinante, also the name of Don Quixote’s hag, was the name of my passed down wheelchair rugby chair. I used it for one season when I discovered wheelchair rugby is a lot of fun and I was very bad at it.  Bucephalus was Alexander the Great’s horse. That was the power wheelchair I used to move 800 miles away from my family to start grad school and conquer life independently for the first time.  Rhaegal, my newest power wheelchair, is a Quantum® Edge® 3 with iLevel® technology. Both green and black, this power chair is like a dragon that carries me and my two toddlers around on grand adventures in our imaginations. 

I name my power chairs because they are extensions of my body and my personality.  They are irreplaceable because the life they allow me to lead is irreplaceable.

About Joe Stramondo: Joe is an assistant professor at San Diego University and is extremely active in the disability community. In his spare time, Joe strives to be the best father he can to his children. Click here to learn more about Joe.