February 6, 1999

When I went to McGill University, the school's student paper would never refer to the university's student union building by its real name.

Instead, it would refer to it as the as the 'Shatner' building. As in William 'Captain James T. Kirk' Shatner.

I was told that at that time, the university administration was reluctant to name the building after an alumni that had not given generously to the university. And so, despite a student plebiscite (dominated by mobilized trekkies) that had chosen the name 'The Shatner Building', the university did not immediately take up on the suggestion.

Indignant that the administration would ignore the will of the students, the McGill Tribune made it a point to only refer to the building as the Shatner Building. And in 1991, the administration gave in and the Shatner Building is now an official entity.

At the time of this writing, I am (temporarily) employed at Trent University where the school's student paper never refers to the library that I work at by its real name.

The library's name is 'The Bata Library' as in Bata shoes. The paper always refers to it as 'The Biko Library' as in Steven Biko, the South African anti-apartheid activist who was killed in police captivity.

And I was thinking about the power of names and whether it would be possible to re-name the whole world into your own worldview. And not just to prevent all our buildings to be named after businessmen.

Just because you can.