One of the underwriters of my local public-radio station is Aegis Living, which operates “residential communities” for old folks in California, Nevada, and Washington. “Aegis”—which should be pronounced with a long E in the first syllable—has an appropriate meaning for this company: protection, sponsorship, guidance. The word comes from Greek aigis, meaning “goatskin”; in Greek myth, the shields of Athena and Zeus were made of goatskin. In contemporary English, we usually encounter “aegis” in a phrase like “under the aegis of.”
Great story, right?
Here’s the problem: Every time the morning radio announcer acknowledges Aegis, he mispronounces the word so that it sounds almost exactly like “ageist.”
That’s not just a mispronunciation; it’s a miscommunication. I’m sure Aegis would no more want to be associated with the negative connotations of ageism than it would choose to name a new residential community “Elder Abuse Lodge.”
I always encourage my clients to choose names with positive etymologies and good stories. But etymology and story aren’t enough: Names also need to be memorable and pronounceable. And a foreign-looking, relatively obscure word like “aegis” is almost guaranteed to confuse some readers and speakers, even well-educated public-radio announcers.
If a common mispronunciation can contradict your brand message, please think beyond etymology and story and choose a name that sounds right.