The Art of Renaming

Chilean sea bass

Chilean sea bass

If people don’t like something, the solution is often as simple as a name change.  Consider fish.  Some of the most popular fish today are renamed versions of less desirable fish.  Orange Roughy used to be called slimehead.  Chilean sea bass used to be called toothfish.  Monkfish used to be goosefish. The result of these name changes has been a dramatic increase in popularity, so much so that many renamed fish are now overfished and endangered.

The renaming trend is now spreading to academic courses. From the Boston Globe:

Boston College German studies professor Michael Resler went searching for a way to boost flagging interest in his “German Literature of the High Middle Ages’’ class a few years ago, and settled on the idea of simply giving the course a sexier name. The resulting “Knights, Castles, and Dragons’’ nearly tripled enrollment.

Resler then replaced his class on “The Songs of Walter von der Vogelweide,’’ a great German lyric poet, with “Passion, Politics, and Poetry in the Middle Ages.’’ Again, enrollment swelled.

“I suppose the moral of the story is that we live in an age where everything has to be marketed in order to find a willing audience,’’ Resler mused.

Maybe it’s time to rename law school classes:

Torts –> Crashes and Accidents

Criminal Law –> Murder Most Foul and Other Dastardly Crimes

Trusts & Estates –> Dead Hands: Power After Death

Corporate Law –> Gold and Parachutes

Property –> The Story of a Whale and a Fox

Hat tip: Inside Higher Ed

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10 Responses

  1. Sarah L. says:

    Indeed. Also:

    Tax -> Tax

  2. Woody says:

    Evidence = CSI

  3. Great point, for me it raises the question of whether this has always been the case. Is this phenomenon truly unique to the modern age or are merely more aware of it, more eager and able to exploit it?

    In other words, was there a time when slimehead was a popular dish and we only recently had to change the name to regain this lost popularity – or is it the case that no one was ever keen to eat slimehead and we only recently decided to market it?

    Is the need to market a symptom of our age or do we simply have better tools with which to do it?

  4. Dissent says:

    @William: brilliant!

    I started thinking in terms of renaming courses and topics in terms of musical hit songs:

    Torts -> You Broke My Heart So I Busted Your Jaw
    Criminal Law -> Killing Me Softly
    Trusts & Estates -> Knocking on Heaven’s Door
    Corporate Law -> Taking Care of Business
    Property -> You Don’t Own Me
    Tax -> 1040 Blues
    Bankruptcy -> Running on Empty
    Evidence -> I Saw Her Standing There
    Divorce -> Breaking Up is Hard to Do
    Appeals -> Never, Never Gonna Give You Up

    Of course, the course listings would now be accompanied by YouTube clips. 🙂

  5. Frank says:

    Intellectual Property: Drugs, Downloads, & Knock-offs

    Health Care Finance and Regulation: Choose Your Own Death Panel Adventure

    Administrative Law: Rulemaking, Adjudication, & Due Process, Oh My!

  6. Dave Hoffman says:

    Contracts: How Lawyers (Really) Make Their Money

  7. Howard Wasserman says:

    Legislation: “I’m Just a Bill”
    Civ Pro: Who to Sue, Where to Sue, How to Sue
    Fed Courts: Learning to Love Judicial Activism

  8. Christa says:

    I am actually disappointed with the name changes; I find them misleading. I took a class called “Women Unite” that turned out to be an East German Literature Course.

  9. Pamela Jackson says:

    Clever…Miss Christina…maybe you should read the “short description” provided for every class at every college before you actually enroll for said class.