Why is the Libyan military operation called “Odyssey Dawn”? Josh Dzieza explains in The Daily Beast that the names of military operations are governed by regulations that dictate their length (two words), their tone (they can’t “express a degree of hostility inconsistent with traditional American ideals or current foreign policy”), and their legality (no commercial trademarks). Dzieza points out that the war formerly known as Operation Iraqi Freedom has since last year been called Operation New Dawn (I wrote about that name change here), and he interviews linguist Geoffrey Nunberg and two namers from Landor Associates for their perspectives. (Via @wayword.) (Read my other posts about military jargon and naming practices, including the rather popular “Beyond Snafu and Fubar.”)
More Odyssey Dawn: Wired.com quotes a US Defense Department spokesman who says the name is “just the product of the Pentagon’s semi-random name-generation system.” The US Africa Command, or Africom, was given three sets of words it could begin the name with; the words begin “between the letters JF-JZ, NS-NZ and OA-OF, and those three groups give about 60 some odd words,” the spokesman said. Read more at “What’s in a Name? ‘Odyssey Dawn’ Is Pentagon-Crafted Nonsense.”
Zeum, the children’s art and technology museum in San Francisco, will change its name later this year to Children’s Creativity Museum. When Zeum opened in 1998, it aimed for tech-y hipness, starting with the name, a truncation of “museum.” But according to a San Francisco Chronicle story, the clever name was an obstacle. “Research showed folks outside the tech circles just didn’t know what it meant,” said the museum’s executive director, Audrey Yamamoto. “My parents still don't know how to pronounce Zeum. They always say Zoom,” said Stanley Lin, a local high school senior who’s an intern at the museum. The new name, logo, and exhibit plan were all developed by local agencies that donated their time; the blandly descriptive name was contributed by business-consulting firm Bain & Company, not generally known for its verbal-branding work.
The Coen brothers’ film-production company, Mike Zoss Productions, is named after Mike Zoss Drugs in Minneapolis, where the brothers liked to hang out when they were kids. The Farrelly brothers say they don’t know why they named their production company Conundrum Entertainment: “It’s a real head-scratcher.” Those and 32 other explanations of how production companies got their names are in the March issue of Vanity Fair. The story is titled “What’s in a Name?” because, as we have seen, that is the only permissible title for stories about names and naming.
NZT—the fake productivity-enhancing drug taken by Bradley Cooper’s character in the new thriller Limitless—is shorthand for the equally fake yet very scientific-sounding thallanylzirconio-methyl-tetrahydro-triazatriphenylene. According the TheClearPill.com, an authoritative-looking website that launched last December to generate interest in the movie:
NZT is a nitrogen-based psychotropic that impacts specific brain activity in several ways but most significantly by elevating receptivity and synaptic sharing between the hippocampus, the amygdale [sic] and the striatum. In controlled doses, taken over the course of a relatively short period of time, NZT significantly improves both short-term and long-term memory, memory capacity, and the analytical purposing of memory. Because it also impacts the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, NZT can improve higher brain function, hand-eye coordination, muscle memory and even the body’s immune system. In some people, NZT can even induce lucid dreaming and what is sometimes called ‘fugue state’.
NZT is “not recommended for vegans.”
(Speaking of The Clear Pill, “Clear” is used in Scientology to refer to a desirable state on the road to personal salvation. According to Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, “becoming Clear strengthens a person’s native individuality and creativity.”)