For those of you familiar with the Bible story of Adam in the Garden of Eden, you may recall that Adam is charged with naming all the animals with which he shared the garden. There is a joke describing an exchange between Adam and the Creator regarding the naming of the hippopotamus. When the beast is brought before him, Adam decides to call the animal a "hippopotamus." When asked why, Adam replies, "Because it looks like a hippopotamus."

In the data world, information management professionals are also occasionally called upon to name things (e.g., data sets, columns, objects, tags). Unfortunately, sometimes situations occur where several things end up with the same name. Alternatively, when more than one person is (independently) involved, the same thing ends up with more than one name. These kinds of problems multiply when we decide to share those things with even more people, each of which potentially has even more names for those things. This is a problem that I refer to as "semantic inconsistency," by which I roughly mean that there are differences between what a thing is and what it is called.

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