A Natural History of Proper Naming in the Context of Emerging Mass Production: The Case of British Railway Locomotives before 1846
The early history of railway locomotives in Britain is marked by two striking facts. The first is that many were given proper names, even where there was no objective need to distinguish them in such a way. The second is that those names tended strongly to suggest essential attributes of the machines themselves, sometimes real as in the case of 'Puffing Billy', or metaphorical or mythologized as in the cases of 'Rocket' and 'Vulcan'. However when, before long, locomotives came to be produced to standard types, namegiving remained the norm for at least some types but the names themselves tended to be typed, and naturally in a less constrained way than earlier ones. The later onymic types veered sharply away from being literally or metaphorically descriptive. The sources of these second-order onymic types are of some interest, both culturally and anthropologically, and some types tended to be of very long currency in Britain. This paper explores the early history of namegiving in an underexplored area, and proposes a general model for the evolution of name-bestowal practices.