There are quite a few idioms in our culture that involve identification. Due to things like privacy, bias, and fear, we often want to talk about a characteristic of something without identifying what the something is.
In the case of my inspiration for this post, that something is a book. A famous book even. But I don’t know what that book is, because the person talking about it refused to name names. I respect this person, a well-known blogger in the circles I frequent. I have probably read this book. I would love to know what book they are referring to, because I would love to hear their opinion on it. But for some reason, they feel uncomfortable expressing a public opinion on the subject.
I wonder why. You see this all over the place, and especially in writing circles. And I honestly don’t see a concrete reason why it should be that way. I have some guesses as to why in some cases, but there’s nothing that defines clear, deserved consequences for breaking this apparent social rule.
First, there’s probably a desire to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. In this case, referring to a published book by a famous author, I don’t think they really need that amount of protection from hurt feelings.
Second, I often hear people worrying about getting black-balled by the industry. Now the fame of the author might be relevant, but I don’t know of any serious cases where this has actually occurred. So again I wonder at this omission.
Third, since there does seem to be a a set etiquette here, there’s the desire to appear to be playing by the rules and not being rude. Which probably makes the most sense out of all the reasons I can think of.
There are probably a lot more reasons, major and minor, that I haven’t thought of.