The very specific rules for naming houseplants

Dracaena trifasciata isn’t satisfied with just one name.

Also known as the snake plant, St. George’s sword, viper’s bowstring hemp or, for the vengeful among us, mother-in-law’s tongue, the common houseplant has more than enough monikers. But it probably wouldn’t mind if you gave it another. Like Bruce or Maud or Harriet. That way, you’ll both feel a little less lonely.

“Giving something a name is a part of having a relationship,” said Norbert Schwarz, a professor of psychology at USC and a man who’s spent his life studying human judgment and decision making. “People anthropomorphize objects — products like their car or the trees in nature — mostly when they feel lonely or when they have an affiliation motive and want to be close to something. And it turns out that doing that has positive consequences.”

Those consequences, Schwarz said, include humans probably taking much better care of that plant, even if it’s beginning to droop, sag or bloom less often. “You don’t get rid of your friends just because they get old and cranky,” he says, just as you wouldn’t throw away a plant you took the time to name.

Read more at the Los Angeles Times (Stacey Leasca)


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