I recently stumbled upon InnoCentive, “where organizations—corporations, large and small, not-for-profits and governments—turn when they have important problems that need solving.” The company provides a crowdsourced service that it calls, variously, “challenged [sic]-based Innovation [capital letter sic]” and “Open Innovation,” or OI. (Oy!)
InnoCentive—a US company, based in Waltham, Massachusetts—must want us to read its name as a blend of “innovation” and “incentive.” But I first encountered the name without the intercap, so my first take was “innocent” plus “-ive,” a suffix meaning “having the tendency to.” I wondered whether InnoCentive had anything to do with The Innocence Project, which exonerates wrongfully convicted people.
“InnoCentive” embodies at least three of the problems I covered in an earlier post, Six Naming Questions You May Have Overlooked: the lower-case-spelling problem, the black-and-white problem, and the newspaper problem. It’s also an example of an awkwardly ambiguous portmanteau (AAP), a subject I’ve visited here from time to time. (I’ve even written a verse about AAPs.) And it suffers from an inconsistent identity: the website sometimes uses the full name and sometimes abbreviates it to “IC.” (Ick!)
The urge to merge “inno-” into new words isn’t a recent phenomenon. Linguist Arnold Zwicky brought to my attention the Disney Innoventions Dream Home, which opened in 1998. Zwicky quotes David Rakoff, whose essay about the DIDH appears in Half Empty, which was published last year:
While we’re on the subject of outsized claims on that border on the risible, can we pause for a moment to talk about that term, Innovention? A neologism that, in an effort to turbo-charge meaning, takes two perfectly eloquent and unassailable words and by combining them renders both suspect. It is a word developed by a committee, one that can only be spoken unironically if one is being paid to do so, like menus in chain restaurants that list “Snacketizers” and “Appeteasers.” Can’t you just taste the process-mapping?
Speaking of taste and neologisms, I’d just read about PepsiCo’s new Tropolis product, an 80-calorie fruit purée packaged in a dauntingly ugly pouch. Pepsi’s CEO has said of this Frankenfoodish endeavor:
We see the emerging opportunity to “snackify” beverages and “drinkify” snacks as the next frontier in food and beverage convenience.
Way to innovatify the language, Pepsi!