But the naming of inanimate objects had a long-standing tradition. Boats probably have been given human names for as long as people have gone to sea. I get that. A boat can seem to almost come alive as it melds with the ocean, taking on a life it does not display when at rest. Giving a boat a name may also be a tribute to a loved one and its beauty and graceful movement may bring to mind a special person.
Is it so different with guitars? I once read that modern guitar body design (going back a couple hundred years) was meant to imitate a woman’s body. This always brings a smile to my face when considering the wider lower bout and narrower upper bout of a guitar, an attribute that is hardly considered desirable by women these days (!) but perhaps that was not the case two hundred years ago?
In any case, I can understand why someone would attach a human, physical aspect to a guitar. Just like a boat, while often pretty at rest it seems to come alive when controlled (played) by the owner. And just like a boat, it responds to its environment. Sometimes being at the helm of a boat gliding along on a sapphire blue sea is sublime, just like those moments when you play a piece of music that comes out close to perfection.
There is a sign at one of my favorite places in the Caribbean, Ti Kaye resort on St. Lucia, that warns bathers: “Sometimes the sea gets angry, as we all do.” That angry sea can make boating a frustrating and unpleasant experience. Boat handling becomes a very personal challenge at those times and it can seem like the ocean and the craft itself are conspiring to make you uncomfortable at best. So it is with guitar playing at times, too. That well loved guitar can seem contrary and frustrating on some days, almost seeming determined to rebel against your best efforts. I played that song so well the last time I tried it, you think. Why is it so bad today? It must be the guitar’s fault that it sounds awful! (My usual solution to this is to change the strings – which always makes my guitar sound better – or just put the damn thing down for a while and come back to it later!)
My best guess as to why people give human names to their guitars is that for many of us, some of our most rewarding and yes, emotional experiences take place while playing. The more it happens, the more we attach emotional, almost human values to something that is really nothing more than wood, steel and glue. But like humans themselves who are just various organic materials, it is the sum of those parts and most importantly, something essentially indefinable that makes us bond. So who am I to judge those who call their guitars by name?
Peace & good music,