My latest column for the Visual Thesaurus looks at the most interesting and significant brand names of 2014. Not, I hasten to add, the biggest or most successful brands, but the ones that were “newly prominent or notable” (per the American Dialect Society’s criteria for words of the year) and exhibited linguistic and onomastic merit.
Access to this column is free to all – happy holidays! (But don’t you know someone who’d appreciate the gift of a Visual Thesaurus subscription?) Here’s one of my top 10 brand names:
Uber. The rideshare app—based in San Francisco and operating in more than 200 cities worldwide—was founded in 2009, but 2014 was the year it truly became a household word, not always for positive reasons. Yes, the company was valued at a boggling $40 billion in December, up from $18 billion a mere six months earlier. But it was also beset by controversy: lawsuits, protests by licensed cab drivers in many European cities, revelations of unethical behavior on the part of top corporate executives. On the one hand, “Uber”—German for “over,” but minus the umlaut—seemed to characterize the company’s above-it-all arrogance. On the other hand, the app is undeniably popular—so much so that “Uber for __” now describes myriad unrelated businesses in the “shared economy”: Uber for snowplowing, for kids, for pizza, for gentleman companions, for flowers, for marijuana, and on and on.
Update: “There’s an Uber for X,” a Seussian verse by Jason O. Gilbert. Here’s one verse: