Taking Inventory: Name Tag

Tag your friends! Wait, you can’t do that on this website...

Let me tell you the heartbreaking story of the first time I met an ocelot in Minecraft. I’d read the patch notes, and knew ocelots had just been added to the game. I knew that I would find them in the jungle biome. So I located a jungle, and spent about half an hour wandering around in the hope I’d encounter a new furry friend. Finally, I spotted one, gazing at me from underneath a bush.

I pursued it for a while, trying to tame it, but then I got distracted by a patch of melons. When I turned around again, the ocelot had run too far away and despawned. If only I’d had a name tag handy, perhaps that little cutie would still be with us today.

Name tags were added to Minecraft in version 1.6.1 following a request from Paul Soares Jr. In a tweet, he asked for “1) name tags 2) water-breathing potions 3) lava-safe boats 4) spy-chicken interrogation devices”. I suppose two out of four ain’t bad. Originally, name tags were only found in the occasional dungeon chest, but now you can find them in abandoned mineshafts and woodland mansions. There’s also a small chance to get them while fishing, and librarian villagers will trade them for a whopping 20-22 emeralds.

Name tags, as you might guess, allow you to name an animal or mob in Minecraft. The only creatures you can’t name, in fact, are other players and the Ender Dragon. Players already have names, after all, and the Ender Dragon? Well, let’s just say that uttering its true name would unleash a destructive force that would obliterate not only the End, but the Nether and the Overworld at the same time. Probably best to let that one lie.

You can’t just right-click a tag on an animal to name it, though. That would be too easy. First, you’ll need to get yourself an anvil and some XP, and then rename the name tag itself in the anvil to what you’d like it to apply. Only then can you take the tag and right-click it on a creature you’d like to name. Once you do, the name will float over the creature’s head forever after.

Forever? Yep! Animals and mobs in Minecraft have a habit of disappearing when you’re not looking – as exemplified in the sad story above. But a named creature won’t despawn except in a handful of unusual circumstances. For example, you can name a hostile mob but it’ll still vanish if you set the difficulty to “peaceful”.

Want some fun? There are a handful of names that have special effects on particular creatures. See if you can discover them all.

After extensive research, I’ve discovered that no historian has ever authored a book on the origins of name tags – so there’s a gap in the market for you, historians. The earliest evidence of name tags that I could find only goes back to the Second World War, when US soldiers began to wear name badges on their uniforms – at least partially so their clothes could be returned after they came out of the laundry. The practice became more common during the Korean War, after which its use spread to other armies.

The most famous real-world nametag is probably the “Hello My Name Is” sticker, most frequently seen at conferences and seminars. The first of these was designed in 1959 by C-Line Products, and it quickly became a hit among forgetful people across the globe. Interestingly, the sticker also became a hit among graffiti artists – who use it to quickly tag places without the risk of being caught pulling out a spray can.

Not that we would condone such shocking behaviour. Keep your name tags where they belong – on sheep, creepers, and the occasional chicken.

Written by
Duncan Geere