[r-t] Naming methods & compositional devices

Don Morrison dfm at ringing.org
Sat Aug 2 05:27:01 UTC 2008

On Fri, Aug 1, 2008 at 7:36 PM, Richard Smith <richard at ex-parrot.com> wrote:
> Why do methods have names?  Isn't it just to make communication easier, so
> that the tower captain or conductor can say "let's ring Cambridge" instead
> of "let's ring the place notation x3x4x25x36x4x5x6x7x6x5x4x36x25x4x3x2
> repeatedly until it comes round", followed by the inevitable requests to
> have bits of it repeated or explained.  Humans apply labels to things, and
> if we didn't already have names for methods, they would be quickly invented.

I think that's oversimplifying.

If that were the only motivation we would not have the bizarre,
unmemorable names for methods that we frequently do have. There would
be an easier, more structured naming scheme.

And note that often these names get in the way. I think relatively few
bands tackling lots of doubles methods bother to all go to the trouble
of learning all the names, and instead describe the methods they're
ringing, by using canonical representatives of the works above and
below the treble and so on. I don't know, but I suspect folks ringing
oodles of minor methods these days do something similar. All the
random names would get in the way of clear communication in these

And you see lots of other motivations floating around. People often
pick the method they're going to ring based on the name. And lots of
bands like naming new methods. Often a new method is chosen for a
special occasion specifically so it can be named anew to honor
something or other.

I certainly agree with the last sentence of what I've quoted at the top
of this reply. I just think the reasons we apply labels to things is a
lot more complicated than just to ease communication.

Amusingly, another big part of why we attach names to things is, I
think, biological. If you've ever watched children acquiring language
you'll have noticed how quickly it becomes important to them to attach
names to things. Just tonight my young daughter was looking at
a picture in a book I was reading to her that had a dozen personified,
smiling flowers in it. She pointed to each flower in turn and asked
"what's her name?" I'm pretty sure we're hard-wired to want to attach
names to things. Especially sentient things or things we're
anthropomorphising, but that probably spills over into things as silly
as ringing methods.

Don Morrison <dfm at ringing.org>"
"We believe that labels are important, but mostly for bottles of
wine."  -- Christo and Jeanne-Claude (from the artists' web site)

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