Naming Rights

Salt Lake City’s big basketball arena and events center is called the Energy Solutions Arena.  Catchy, isn’t it?  Turns out that the more successful you are, the more things you can leave your name on.  Utah is full of buildings carrying names like Dee, Price, and Huntsman.  Those buildings will all be there long after the founders of these family lines have passed on and their third-generation female progeny have found ways to work the patriarchal surname creatively into their own new married names, i.e., “Veruca Huntsman-Swidersky-Huntsman;” “Angelica HINCKLEY(smith).”

It’s a worthy thing to give enough to a museum that they want to put your name on the wall.  Even better a hospital or a homeless shelter.  But in the end, these are still just buildings, and buildings eventually all fall down.  Or even worse, your name gets subdivided, like the erstwhile Rice Stadium at the University of Utah, which received a face lift prior to the Olympics, diluting the Rices’ impact and giving rise to the current Rice-Eccles Stadium.  Those poor Rices– all that money they threw in, expecting their names to stand as a monument to their largesse, only to have to share the stage with another bunch of Crimson Club patricians.  (And all this for naming rights to the home of a second-rate football team.)  Then there is the anonymous alphabet soup of building names spread across the university campuses of the world.  BYU buildings like the MARB and the Crabtree building are presumably named after someone, but the glories and achievements of these people are utterly lost to the drowsy students that walk their halls each day, as ancient and irrelevant as Ozymandias.   Buildings are okay monuments, but you can do better.


And after you’ve paid all that money, they still go and print ‘Utah’ on the field.  Instead of ‘This football game made possible by a generous donation from the Rice and Eccles Families’

Think of Heimlich. He had to invest a little more than some Founders Club donation, but with a little work and deep knowledge of the human diaphragm, he was able to attach himself to an innovative maneuver and secure his place in history.  Everyone knows Heimlich, and everyone loves his maneuver.  I’d love to have my name attached to a maneuver.  (The only guy that ever came close to that kind of success with a gambit was Ivan, of Crazy Ivan fame).

Like with so many other things, the Greeks were the best at memorializing themselves by attaching their names to things.  No theorem is as famous as the one made up by Pythagoras, nor is any theoremist as well-remembered.  And can you imagine having sole naming rights to all of geometry?  Euclid’s coup is exceptionally brazen.  You can’t own geometry.  And yet, in a sense, he does.  We should be talking about Euclidean Chutzpah.  Socrates has a method, Hippocrates his oath, and then there’s Plato, with his ideal, his solids, his Republic, and his love.  That guy was so good.


The best of them all.

Since the fall of Greece, people have had a harder time taking indelible ownership over abstract concepts.  The most seminal breakthrough of the renaissance came from Isaac Newton, who found a way to attach his name to all of physics—a discipline that had existed for centuries before him (and an obvious missed opportunity for Aristotle).  By the time Newton stuck his flag in all of physics, there was very little space left for others.  Even Einstein could find nothing on which to make his name stick (‘Einsteinian Relativity‘ just never popped).

Probably my second favorite naming rights achievement belongs to Jefferson, who is now inextricably attached to the most successful form of government in history.  Can you imagine having democracy named after you?  It’s just a phenomenal success in name-sticking.  I wish I could pay someone to buy those naming rights.

But after long contemplation, I think there’s one guy at the top of the heap- the one who found the very coolest thing to stick his name to.  I would loooove to have an argument-settling conceptual razor attached to my memory.  Occam wins.

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13 Responses to Naming Rights

  1. Layne says:

    Psychologists have some good names too. Everyone knows about Pavlov and his work with dogs.

  2. Davis says:

    We’ve actually amassed a pretty good track record so far

  3. Braden says:

    Ry, That was a very good post. Sort of the NPR side of DDDT–witty and funny and enjoyable to read, but very literate and elevated at the same time–it does the the thing NPR somehow does that reinforces the idea that because you listen to it and get all the references, you are pretty sure you are smart. Well done.

    Dave, your comment made me laugh, too.

  4. Christian says:

    “third-generation female progeny have found ways to work the patriarchal surname creatively into their own new married names, ”


  5. Ryan says:

    Davis, that’s not a bad point. But still, those businesses are still in the tangible sphere. To become immortal our namesake has to be purely conceptual, metaphysical even. It’s too bad, too, because I’m no good at all at inventing concepts.

  6. Wade says:

    There is a flip side of the naming rights, too. These politicians know it.

    Ponzi also knows this well.

  7. Wade says:

    Quick memory test for our author: What does it mean to be “Chet-ed”?

  8. Brandon says:


    Whatever the concept yet to be derived, in an effort to one up William of Occam (Occam’s razor), I suggest the name “Bell’s Squeegee” be used.

  9. Christian says:

    Brandon, “Bell’s Squeegee,” named after me, is already in popular use. It means:

    If faced with imminent death by lion or shark, choose the lion every time.

  10. Ryan says:

    Wade, that is such a great call. Ponzi is the supervillain to Occam’s superhero. Mason and Dixon are just small potatoes to that guy.

    For the life of me, I can’t figure out Chetting. I’m sure I know the Chet of whom you speak, but I can’t plausibly convert him into a verb (or, in this case, a past participle). But I’m also sure that if I ever knew this, I wouldn’t have forgotten it. So your quiz is patently unfair.

    Brandon, the squeegee idea is a good one. I agree that it belongs to Kook, but he’s wrong about its meaning. Bell’s squeegee is a term used to describe certain male body types whose length and linearity resemble the long wiper of a squeegee.

  11. Wade says:

    I’ll give you a hint (well, a definition, really), it has to do with Prom/Homecoming dates, and high school hotties way out of someone’s league. Used in a sentence:
    “So, are you going to ask so and so to such and such dance?”
    “No, she got Chetted like a month ago”

  12. Brandon says:

    Chris, I should have known it belonged to you. I also should have known that belonging to you, it would involve, in some way, a reference to a shark.

  13. Ryan says:

    Ohhhh, man. That brings it back. What a great notion that was. And what a great champion of that notion, too. I always respect a bold move, and he invented the bold move.

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