frozen names

A radio phone-in caller reminded me of the Label Law yesterday - the name of the thing is not the thing. The caller said his local shop is run by an Indian gentleman who everyone calls Ray. For 15 years the caller has called him Ray. But, he recently discovered, his name is not Ray. It's not even close. He explained that everyone calls him Ray because the previous owner of the shop was called Ray. At least that's what he's been told. Maybe the previous owner was called Ray because the previous previous owner was called Ray!

It's a bit like sixth form college. That's the school you used to go to after you'd finished five years at secondary school. But in 1990-ish they changed the numbering scheme. Now the year number is the number of years you've been in education. One for your first year at primary school, eleven for your last year at secondary school. So now sixth form college is where you go after you've finished year eleven. But it's still called sixth form college.

I'm also reminded of something Jerry Weinberg wrote in Experiential Learning - Vol 3 Simulation.

Rules are frozen solutions. Rules are solutions to yesterday's problem, carried forward to the present, but usually without reference to the problem they were intended to solve. Each rule is really an "if-then" rule, but the "if-then" part is seldom stated.

If you don't know why you're putting eye-of-newt into the cauldron then you're in trouble when the magic potion stops working. And if you don't understand why eye-of-newt works, you'll probably be afraid to change the recipe.