Yesterday we looked at a brand name with a smiley face built into the letter E. Today the smiles continue in the form of an appended emoticon.
But I'm not smiling over ngmoco:). It's one peculiar, offputting name.
The company, which is based in San Francisco, develops games for the iPhone and iPod Touch. The prose on the ngmoco:) website is breathless ("We'll strive to raise the bar for gaming on the platform and our commitment to customers is that we'll always try to give you great games that showcase this amazing device in a broad range of categories") and randomly spelled (unvieled for unveiled). From the evidence, the company approached corporate naming with the same oxygen-deprived whimsicality.
Here's what linguist Benjamin Zimmer had to say about this name in a Language Log post:
The namers of ngmoco:) are setting the bar very high in the "weird Web 2.0 branding" department: it's all lower-case, with an emoticon tacked on at the end. And of course it starts with the consonant cluster ngm. If ng is supposed to represent the velar nasal [ŋ], then the cluster [ŋm] is something we'd only see in English medially in the word engma (one name for the velar nasal) or straddling a morphemic boundary as in hangman or ringmaster. Some languages might be able to handle initial [ŋm] — from a quick look, Wambaya in northern Australia appears to be one of them, and possibly some Inuit languages as well. (But not Vulcan, sadly.) In English, initial velar nasal is a no-no, let alone an initial cluster with another nasal, [m]. Even the syllabic velar nasal is a stumper for most Anglophones, as I discussed in my post on Maya Soetoro-Ng.
As it turns out, vocal calisthenics aren't required: the name is supposed to be pronounced en-gee-moco. NG as in No Good? No, as in Next Generation. And "moco" as in "mobile company." As for the colon-parenthesis, your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps it's intended to indicate a rising inflection at the end of the word? You know? Like in Valley Girl talk?
Besides the alien orthography, ngmoco:) has a problem shared by several other companies in its niche: moco is Spanish for mucus. Once you know that, it's hard not to think of booger jokes when you encounter mocoNews (breaking news about the mobile-content industry), MocoSpace (communities of mobile-device users), or Your Moco ("the best in mobile content").
There's also a Spanish website, Mocosoft, whose name is a snotty reference to Microsoft.
(In unrelated news, MoCo is often used as a shortening of Montgomery County, in Maryland. And in 2001 Nissan introduced a a tiny car called the Moco. The photos I've seen are, unfortunately, of a roundish mucus-green vehicle.)
But I digress. It's the unfathomability of ngmoco:) that's most problematic. Several months ago, two University of Michigan psychologists published the results of a test they conducted: they gave subjects lists of names the scientists said were food additives, but were names they'd made up. The more challenging the name—for example, Hnegripitrom—the more dangerous the students assumed the substance to be. (Read about the study here.)
ngmoco:) is supposed to represent harmless diversions. But its difficult name* works counter to its brand personality and makes its audience struggle to pronounce and comprehend it.
* Yes, the use of different-colored type provides a measure of clarification while you're on the company's website. But publications that write about the company won't reproduce the colors, and you can't hear red and blue in conversation or on the radio. If you have to rely on visual aids to clarify your name's pronunciation, the name isn't strong enough.