NBC Universal and News Corp. announced a name Thursday for their web video joint venture: Hulu.
The name is the latest in a long line of copycat names--Google and Yahoo got there first--that are short, more-or-less meaningless, and distinguished by long-u vowel sounds (a k a Oo, baby, baby). See Squidoo, Doostang, Boompa, Qoosah, etc. etc. etc. (For even more Baby Talk 2.0 names, see this L.A. Times story.)
In a "Hulu hello" posted on Hulu.com, CEO Jason Kilar (formerly of Amazon) explained the name choice:
Objectively, Hulu is short, easy to spell, easy to pronounce, and rhymes with itself. Subjectively, Hulu strikes us as an inherently fun name, one that captures the spirit of the service we're building. Our hope is that Hulu will embody our (admittedly ambitious) never-ending mission, which is to help you find and enjoy the world's premier content when, where and how you want it.
Translation: We were able to buy the domain.
Kilar may think "Hulu" is an empty-vessel name, but in fact it's the Hawaiian word for:
1. Feather, hair
2. Esteemed, choice; esteemed older relative, as of parents' or grandparents' generations
Hulu hipa is sheep fleece and huluhulu is body hair.
Hawaiian is spoken in Hawaii, which, last time I checked, was still in the United States.
Elsewhere, hulu means "butt" (of, say, a gun) in the Malay and Indonesian languages. It means "cease and desist" in Swahili. (I am not making this up.)
But my favorite bit of disambiguation comes from Broadcasting & Cable, which said:
The new Hulu is not to be confused with the Swedish technology company, Hulu, which creates WiMAX applications for, among other things, the kind of streaming video the other Hulu plans to do.
All right, then! If it's not to be confused, then we are not confused.
P.S. The Swedish Hulu, which was founded in 2004, is an acronym of Hyper Urban Level User. So they say.
(Hat tip to MJF.)
Update: William Lozito at NameWire notes: "When written in Latin script (the alternative is Arabic), the Azeri word for "peach" is hülü." Azeri is the official language of Azerbaijan.