A couple of weeks ago, commenter Ben Trawick-Smith* asked why the name of tech company Chitika is pronounced CHIT-ika instead of the more predictable (in some languages) chi-TIK-a.
Good question, Ben. It turns out there’s a good answer. Well, good-ish.
First, here’s what Chitika says about itself:
Founded in 2003, Chitika (pronounced CHIH-tih-ka), is a full-service on-line advertising network serving over 3 billion monthly impressions across more than 100,000 websites.
(N.B: Any company name that requires a pronunciation guide has a couple of strikes against it from the get-go.)
Chitika’s offices are in Westborough, Massachusetts, but the company name comes from another continent. Again, from the About Us page:
What does Chitika mean? When Chitika co-founders, Venkat Kolluri and Alden DoRosario left Lycos in 2003 to start their own company, they sought a name that would suggest the speed with which its customers would be able to put up ads on their Web sites. Chitika, which means “snap of the fingers” in Telugu (a South Indian language), captured this sentiment and Chitika Inc. was born.
Difficult as it is to refrain from Chitika-Chitika-Bang-Bang jokes, I shall do so. I’ll also refrain from observing what happens when you make a small change in the first syllable of the name. Instead, I’ll point out that Chitika has a certain onomatopoetic quality—fast and snappy—and it can be fun to say. However, although Telugu has about 70 million speakers—that’s 2 million more than French—it’s unlikely that many of them are in Chitika’s target market, which means that for all intents and purposes “Chitika” is an empty-vessel name, with all the marketing challenges that burden any such name.
Chitika has other tsuris unrelated to its name. From a March 18 TechCrunch post:
Search-targeted advertising network Chitika reached a settlement this week with the Federal Trade Commission over illegally tracking consumers [sic] behavior online. According to the FTC, Chitika allowed users to opt out of having cookies placed on their browsers and receiving targeted ads, but unfortunately, Chitika’s opt-out only lasted 10 days. After this period, Chitika continued to track these consumers’ behavior on the web even though they opted out. This took place from at least May 2008 through February 2010, says the FTC. Chitika says this was an unintentional error in their tracking systems.
The post continues:
How much was it worth to Chikita to flaunt the privacy rules? Not much. Chitika tells us that it earned an estimated $0.55 from the users who requested to opt out but were tracked starting ten days after their request instead of ten years.
And yes, that’s an incorrect use of “flaunt”; the word that’s wanted here is “flout.”
* Ben is the author of the excellent new Dialect Blog, “a place for hobbyists, actors, linguists and curiosity-seekers to learn about and discuss the dialects of the English language.”