Thursday, September 02, 2010

Tag, You're It!


I was thinking about tags the other day as I was working at home.
Tags are very useful things.

HTML is what is called a ‘markup language’ used to create web pages on the Internet. It uses keywords inside angle brackets to describe web pages. These bracketed words normally come in pairs referred to as tags. The first is called the start or opening tag, and the second is called the end or closing tag. Between them is the code and text used to format the web pageƅfs appearance and content. There are tags to make print bold and tags to make italics. There are tags to place pictures on pages and tags to put in links. Tags are essential to building web pages, and therefore anything you see on the Internet, from profound literature to cluttering trash.

Lobster trap tags are plastic tags used in Maine to identify lobster traps the way hospital bracelets (another type of tag) identify patients. The information on these tags includes the fisherman’s license number and the zone in which the person works. They’re color-coded and marked with the year. Each fisherman pays for his or her tags (20¢ apiece in 2002, the date of the book I was reading), and they are limited in how many they can buy, a way of controlling how many traps they can set legally so that areas are not over-fished (over-lobstered?).

At St. Paul’s-in-the-Pines Episcopal Church, parishioners wear nametags on certain Sundays so that visitors will know who people are. This is, of course, one of the most common uses of tags, to identify something or someone.

Then there are dog tags _ for both humans and dogs. One identifies who and what one is, the other identifies to whom the other belongs. (Some people would claim dog tags for humans also identify to whom the wearer belongs.)

There are auto registration tags to identify registered cars. There are hunting tags, to identify registered hunters. There are tags in advertising, sometimes referred to as taglines, that are meant to help our brain register a product in memory, so that we will buy it when next we shop. “Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.”

Price tags are used to show what something is worth – at least in terms of how much a person is expected to pay for it. Sometimes the original price is slashed and a new one written in, indicating the bargain you’re getting. That can be a reflection of an item losing its value, but sometimes it’s merely about what shopping traffic will bear.

Tagged as a verb can mean to be given a name or a nickname, like Shorty or Tank. Being tagged means being chosen for something, whether it is to belong to a group or to fulfill a task. Being tagged can also mean being caught and marked, so that one can be kept track of and studied, or so one can be ‘It’.

So, in life, we are tagged. Tagged with a name, tagged to belong, tagged to participate. These tags change as we journey. We lose some and acquire others as we age and travel and develop. And each tag we acquire has its own purpose.

It’s a good idea to examine a tag when it’s applied to us. What is its purpose? Is it to identify who we are, who we belong to, or what we are worth?

Take a look. What are your tags?

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