The headline is inaccurate and inadequate— “words” don’t “become startups”—and I take issue with the snarky attitude, but this list of short “real” (dictionary) words used as names of startups is worth a look. And the way they’re organized is downright poetic. (Hat tip: Karen Wise.)
Speaking of poetic, the New Yorker’s Rebecca Mead consideredthe favorite words of some writers (mostly British and Irish)—Hilary Mantel loves nesh, Taiye Selasi celebrates the Ghanaian colloquialism chale—and added a favorite of her own.
“When Simon Tam dropped out of college in California and moved to Portland, Ore., to become a rock star, the last tangle he imagined falling into was a multiyear battle with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office over his band’s name.” The trademark tussle over “The Slants,” which the USPTO has deemed “disparaging” and thus ineligible for protection. (For a more technical perspective, see this Brent Lorentz post at Duets Blog.)
The strange charm of cutthroat compounds like pickpocket, scarecrow, and, well, cutthroat: Stan Carey on these rare English words“that have a long, colourful history and constitute a very interesting category.” (I wonder how the newish fondleslab fits in?)
The 2014 Social Security Administration stats on baby names are out, and the Baby Name Wizard blog has discovered some interesting trends in the data. The biggest trend? What naming expert Laura Wattenberg calls “the great smoothing of American baby names”: goodbye “chunky” names (Jayden, Jessica), hello “silky,” vowel-rich names (Amanda, Mia, Noah, Liam).
Speaking of popular names, here’s a fun tool to discover what your “today baby name” would be, based on the ranking of your own name in the year you were born. The tools works backward too: If I’d been born in the 1890s, chances are I’d have been named Minnie. More than a time-waster, the tool can be a big help in character-naming. (May take a while for the tool to load.)
“She originally went by Flo White, then Lord of the Strings. She eventually settled on the Period Fairy. It was more straightforward.” A new ad from category-busing Hello Flo, which sells a Period Starter Kit to adolescent girls.
Don’t read “How to Name a Baby” to learn how to name a baby. Read it for insights into historical baby-naming trends and to confirm your hunches (e.g., “the popular girl name Reagan is for Republicans”). Also: charts!
Given names are “one of the last social acceptable frontiers of class war.”Also: nominative determination, implicit egotism, and how the Internet has made baby naming more difficult. Part 1 of a four-part podcast series about names from Australian radio network ABC. The presenter, Tiger Webb, has an interesting name story himself. (Hat tip: Superlinguo.)
The not-so-secret jargon of doctors is full of acronyms: a flea—fucking little esoteric asshole—is an intern, an FLK is a “funny-looking kid,” and an “SFU 50 dose” is the amount of sedative it takes for 50 percent of patients to shut the fuck up.
Ever wonder what value-creating winners do all day? Here’s Business Town to enlighten you. It’s “an ongoing project attempting to explain our highly intangible, deeply disruptive, data-driven, venture-backed, gluten-free economic meritocracy to the uninitiated. With apologies to Richard Scarry.”
“The decision is made. The name won’t be changed.” – Tim Mahoney, head of marketing for Chevy, speaking to the Detroit Free Press about the Bolt electric vehicle, whose name is strikingly similar to that of the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid. In fact, a Spanish speaker would pronounce the two names identically. (Hat tip: Jonathon Owen.)
The Seattle Seahawks lost the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots. Maybe they’d have fared better under one of the other names nominated in a 1975 naming contest, including the Rainbeams, the Lumberjacks, and the Needlers. (Mental Floss)
“Check the trademark early on,” “Avoid focus groups,” and other good advice about naming from professional name developers. (Communication Arts)
“People talk about expensive meals using sex metaphors; for noodle joints and cupcake counters, they resort to drug lingo.” A visit to a London pub with linguist Dan Jurafsky, author of The Language of Food. (The New Yorker)
The Daily Brute, The London Asswipe, The Quibbler, and other fictional newspaper names. (Wikipedia)
“Be specific—but not wordy” and other tips for naming a blog. Includes a nice shoutout for Strong Language, where I publish from time to time. (The Daily Post)
Would you spend $30,000 to find “a unique name for your unborn child? A wonderful first name that sounds so good that it just had to be invented? A brand-new name with an exciting derivation and unmistakable history? “ This Swiss firm—whose own name is tough to pronounce—is banking on it. (erfolgswelle® AG)
A drugroll—um, drumroll—for the 2015 drug name awards. It’s a tough, confusing field: Zerbaxa, Zontility, Vimizin, Zykadia… (Gary Martin)
Last week North Korea’s Workers’ Party released 310 exclamatory new slogans created to mark the country’s 70th anniversary, and Western news media have been having a glorious people’s field day with them. “Even allowing that they probably come off more melodious in their original Korean,” observed NPR, “some of the commandments are so awkward that it's hard to imagine them sounding right in any language.” Some are malodorous (“Let the strong wind of fish farming blow across the country!”), while others are creepy (“Let us turn ours into a country of mushrooms by making mushroom cultivation scientific, intensive and industrialized!”) and still others could have come from an overeager U.S. marketing department (“Go beyond the cutting edge!”). Here’s the complete list on KCNA Watch, an official English-language publication of the Korean Central News Agency.
When I was a kid we called them “thongs” or “zoris.”
What exactly can you expect when you commission a $5 logo from Fiverr? To find out, Sacha Greif invented a company (“SkyStats”) and tested the waters. Among his conclusions: “Fiverr apparently sees nothing wrong with designers appropriating other people’s work. And not only do they tolerate it, they even directly profit from it since they feature these fake work samples prominently.”
Cherevin may be the evil aggressors of economic warfare, but I’d love to have them as a client. They could teach me about propping up housing markets, and I might be able to offer them a nugget or two about reducing security breaches through better interaction design. Plus, I bet it’s fun to get a project brief with the objective of ‘instilling fear and obedience.’
UPDATE: This morning (June 18), the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, an independent tribunal of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, recommended that the federal registrations for “Redskins” trademarks be cancelled. Read the TTAB fact sheet.
Power Vocab Tweet was invented by the creator of Everyword, which recently completed its mission to tweet every word in the English language.From the blog:
On the surface, Power Vocab Tweet is a parody of “word-of-the-day”blogs and Twitteraccounts. My real inspiration, though, comes from the novel Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin. In that book, a group of underground linguists invent a language (Láadan) that “encodes” in its lexicon concepts that aren’t otherwise assigned to words in human languages. …
The definitions are generated via Markov chain from the definition database in WordNet. The words themselves are generated from a simple “portmanteau” algorithm; each word is a combination of two “real” English words of the appropriate part of speech. (The forms of the words and text used to generate the associated definition aren’t related.)
Colleges across the country this spring have been wrestling with student requests for what are known as “trigger warnings,” explicit alerts that the material they are about to read or see in a classroom might upset them or, as some students assert, cause symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in victims of rape or in war veterans.
The comment section closed a week after publication, by which time 1,359 reader comments had been posted. The majority were critical. “Sadly, this almost reads as parody,” wrote one reader. Others called the protesting students “coddled,” “whining,” and “thin-skinned” as well as “hothouse flowers” and “wimps.” A few readers pointed out a distinction between, as one reader put it, “likely PTSD triggers and warnings of anything that may not be politically correct”; the former are valuable, the reader said, while the latter are not.
On May 18, The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf took up the issue, reminded readers that “The Sopranos,” back in Season 3 (2001), displayed a “rape” warning before airing a particularly troubling episode. But even in unusual cases, Friedersdorf wrote, “where the concept behind ‘trigger warnings’ is likely useful, invoking the phrase itself is much less so, because it has become jargon.” (There are 350 reader comments on this article.)
On May 22, the New Yorker entered the fray with Jay Caspian King’s essay, “Trigger Warnings and the Novelist’s Mind” in the Page-Turner blog. “A trigger warning reduces a work of art down to what amounts to plot points,” King argued. (100 reader comments.)
For arguments in favor of trigger warnings, see Fuck Yeah Trigger Warnings, a Tumblr “dedicated to proper use and necessity of trigger warnings.”
Word Spy’s Paul McFedries has tracked the earliest citation of trigger warning to a September 1993 post on alt.sexual.abuse.recovery. (The post was also prefaced by “spoiler alert,” a term that’s been circulating since the early 1980s.)
Triggerentered English in the mid-17th century; it was spelled tricker until about 1750. Its origin is Dutch trekker, from a verb meaning “to pull” that also gave us the noun trek (a march or journey). The verb to trigger is much more recent, surfacing around 1930. Although “trigger warning” hasn’t yet appeared in any standard dictionaries, many other trigger compounds are in the OED, including trigger point (1891; a price level at which price controls are imposed or re-imposed); trigger man (1930; a gangster who guns people down); and trigger price (1978; a minimum selling price for steel imported into the U.S.).
Trigger was also the name of Roy Rogers’s horse and the nickname of a character in the British TV series “Only Fools and Horses” (because “he looks like an ’orse”). In the last decade or so, “Trigger”—along with other gun-related names like Shooter and Cannon—has surged in popularity as a U.S. baby name, according to the Baby Name Wizard blog. The blog’s author, Laura Wattenberg, observes:
Consider ... that gun names were always popular for dogs, suggesting that a love of guns is nothing new. A foxhound named Trigger would never have surprised anyone. Today, parents are more willing to “pull the trigger” on that kind of eye-catching name for babies, too. Just as we’re naming our pets more like children, it seems that we’re naming our children more like pets.
I looked it up, and it turns out the original quote is a little different, although it’s frequently misrepresented: It has to do with “the mills of the gods” rather than “the wheels of justice,” and it goes all the way back to ancient Greece. In his poem “Retribution,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow singularized the deity:
Though the mills of God grind slowly; Yet they grind exceeding small; Though with patience he stands waiting, With exactness grinds he all
But guess what? This is totally beside the point! Because the name of the shop has nothing to do with Longfellow or the Greek Skeptics. It’s an eponym. The owner’s name is—wait for it—Justice Baxter.
Also in the 1980s, “Justice” began showing up as a girls’ name. It hasn’t been as popular for girls, but that graph line is still rising.
Baby-name experts have categorized Justice among the new “virtue names”—21st-century counterparts to the Faith, Hope, Charity, Patience, and Comfort so popular with the Puritans. Other “new virtue names” include Logic, Rhyme, Reason, Destiny, Curiosity, Savvy, and, yes, Virtue.
A female Justice—17-year-old Justice Toliver—was in the news last week because of a tragedy: She was the victim of a fatal shooting in her Oakland, California, apartment. The prime suspect, her 14-year-old brother, turned himself in to police yesterday.
A word of warning: Don’t even think about naming a child of either sex “Justice” if you live in New Zealand. Since 2001, according to Harper’s Index (August 2013), New Zealand’s Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages has rejected baby names 311 times. Sixty-two of those rejections have been for the name “Justice.”
Yes, that headline would read “Justice Denied in New Zealand.”
Two of the big dictionary companies, Oxford and Merriam-Webster, have already made their word-of-the-year announcements (Oxford’s choice was selfie; Merriam-Webster’s, based on number of online lookups, was science), but we the people still get a chance to play, too. Here are three X-of-the-year contests that are still accepting nominations:
The American Name Society requests nominations for names of the year “that best illustrate, through their creation and/or use during the past 18 months, important trends in the culture of the United States and Canada.” The ANS accepts nominations in four categories: personal names (of “real people, animals, or hurricanes”), place names (of any real geographical location, natural feature, political subdivision, street, or building), trade names (products, companies, organizations), and fictional/literary names. The 2012 name of the year was “Sandy.” Follow the email instructions to submit your nominations. Deadline is January 1, although nominations will also be accepted from the floor at the ANS annual meeting in Minneapolis on January 3, 2014.
The Baby Name Wizard Name of the Year isn’t necessarily the most popular baby name. It’s a name that changed during the course of the year, and points to more changes around us. It’s a one-name time capsule that reminds us of how names are woven into our lives, connecting to and reflecting everything that goes on in our culture.
No deadline given, but the winner is usually announced around December 20. Last year’s winner was Blue Ivy.
Submit your nominations via email in the American Dialect Society’s Word of the Year contest (firstname.lastname@example.org). In addition to an overall winner, the ADS will choose words of the year in the following categories: Most Useful, Most Creative, Most Unnecessary, Most Outrageous, Most Euphemistic, Most Likely to Succeed, and Least Likely to Succeed. Voting will take place January 3, 2014, at the ADS annual meeting, to be held in Minneapolis. The 2012 ADS word of the year was hashtag.
I’m working on my own lists, as well as on a Brands of the Year column for the Visual Thesaurus. Leave a comment if you have a BotY nomination!
What not to name the baby, San Francisco version. Tips for techies: “You have the added handicap of being in a field where naming products comes up all the time. You probably even think you're good at it. Unfortunately for fetuses, there is a pretty big difference between names that would be appropriate for a baby and names appropriate for a wearable pedometer.” (Via Nancy’s Baby Names.)
Speaking of babies, Neil Whitman was recently baffled by a product called Babiators: “All at once, not only did I have to infer the existence of aviators as a noun referring to a kind of eyewear instead of a group of airplane pilots; I also had to take it in as part of an offensively cute portmanteau word, in a display for a product that shouldn’t even exist.”