What is in a name? A word? Worlds might rest on it.
I am not a big film watcher, and I don’t own a TV at all, but over the years I have developed a sensitivity to the value of culture and memes in informing choice of language, especially for key concepts like naming your project. Recently, I found myself on the “informed” end of this when I received a mailing list email from someone planning a public engagement project he was calling “Maths in a Van”. This is how our “Dear John” email exchange developed:
You can’t be serious with the name “maths in a van”?! This conjures up Silence of the Lambs and dodgy driving images. I’m not sure “van” is an association you want… There are loads of other options for this idea!
I am sure your comment is serious and important, but I must admit that films are not my strong point (I take it that “Lambs” is a film?)
Can you spell out what you mean for me please?
Yours genuinely baffled
“Silence of the Lambs” is a well-known horror film where a woman is lured into the back of a van lifting furniture, knocked out and kidnapped by a killer who wishes to starve her and then skin her. There is also a common cultural stereotype of “white van drivers” as being incompetent and inconsiderate road users, and also of van-drivers or “truckers” being mysogenistic and harrassing women. When someone says “in a van” these come to mind. The idea of you opening up the back of a van and inviting children over also makes me think of the Childcatcher in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” (another film). The idea you have is not flawed, but the name carries negative connotations I would be sensitive to. Perhaps a “Maths on Wheels” or “Rolling Maths” or “Visiting Maths” concept may be more neutral?
Hope this helps,
Thanks for these comments. I suppose I thought that that was the sort of thing. I in my ‘innocence’ had no such awareness.
I like the title “Maths on Wheels” however – thanks for that.
You can take it on the nose, deny its credibility, go it stubbornly all the same, or have the approach that “all publicity is good publicity”, but the fundamental is simple: there are some cultural stereotypes you just really need to know.