I enjoy a little word puzzle as much as, or maybe more than, the next public-transit user. But two Bay Area bus-shelter signs, both for worthy nonprofit organizations, go beyond puzzling to confounding.
“Do You Really Want the City 7 x 7 x 7?” asks this poster. I stood in front of it for a couple of minutes, trying to stitch together “Do you really want the city” and “7 x 7 x 7.” What could it possibly mean?
1712, from addle (n.) “urine, liquid filth,” from Old English adela “mud, mire, liquid manure” (cognate with Old Swedish adel “urine,: Middle Low German adel, Dutch aal “puddle”).
Used in noun phrase addle egg (mid-13c.) “egg that does not hatch, rotten egg,” literally “urine egg,” a loan-translation of Latin ovum urinum, which is itself an erroneous loan-translation of Greek ourion oon “putrid egg,” literally “wind egg,” from ourios “of the wind” (confused by Roman writers with ourios “of urine,” from ouron “urine”). Because of this usage, from c.1600 the noun in English was taken as an adjective meaning “putrid,” and thence given a figurative extension to “empty, vain, idle,” also “confused, muddled, unsound” (1706). The verb followed a like course. Related: Addled; addling.
My favorite addle compound is addlepated, as in “What were those addlepated people thinking when they came up with this name?”
A San Francisco startup called Gramr has blasted past its $15,000 Kickstarter goal in less than two weeks and appears likely to reach its “stretch goal” of $50,000. Before I give you any links or clues, try to guess from the name alone what Gramr makes. Language-learning flash cards? National Grammar Day T-shirts? An app that corrects your faulty subject-verb agreement?
No, no, and no. Gramr looks and sounds exactly like “grammar,” but the company has a completely different mission.
Not only is there a This Technology, as noted yesterday, but there’s also an unrelated This TV, a “free premium” (what?) channel right here in the San Francisco Bay Area.
I’m a cable subscriber in the Bay Area, and I confess I’d never heard of This TV. Thank you, reader Cynthia, who said in a comment that she’d discovered This after hooking up a digital box. Cynthia writes:
I thought This TV is clever, especially when they tell me to “watch THIS”... which I do, as This is a suitable alternative to paying for cable.
Uh-oh—I feel a verse coming on:
“I want to watch This. I don’t want to watch That. Give me the remote,” Said the Cat in the Hat.
This Technology tip via brother Michael. Post title via Dorothy Parker.
* Which isn’t to say you can never use This in a name. Compare, for example, This Into That, the name of a small business in Berkeley that transforms old books into clever and useful objects such as clocks and key holders.
Have you heard? Nokia has rebranded all of its navigation products with a single name: HERE.
The official story, in flawless brandbabble:
“HERE is a name that I think signifies what I call an ethos in cartography. HERE is about a sense of location,” said Michael Halbherr, the Nokia executive who oversees the company’s location and commerce unit, in an interview at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week. (Via TechCrunch, March 2)
I can’t explain why the name is in spelled in ALL CAPS everywhere on the website except in the logo.
And here’s more news: PayPal has introduced a new credit-card reader for mobile devices. It, too, is called Here.
Four company names that are not as amusing, meaningful, or intelligible as their creators assume.
Congratulations to Smorn on exceeding its Kickstarter goal before the deadline. Maybe the founders will set aside some of the excess cash for a new name, because the current one—a regrettable portmanteau of smart and horn—is doing them no favors. I guarantee you that no one will decipher “smart” from “sm-”or “horn” from “-orn.” When even TechCrunch says your product “is cooler than it sounds,” you know the name’s a problem. The product seems terrific; it deserves a smart name, not two unhelpful letters from the word smart. P.S. “Glorp”—for the glow-in-the-dark version—is no better. (For more on bad names that start with sm-, see this post about Smeg and this one about Smencils.)
If I gave you four chances to guess what Ecwid is, I bet you’d lose—even if I showed you the logo.
European Community Wealth Information Department? Something about equitable? Something in Welsh? Ecological baby buggies for widdle tiny sextuplets?
Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. This terrible name (for a maker of online shopping-cart software) turns out to be another regrettable portmanteau: a blend of “e-commerce” and “widgets.”
Let’s review: 1) “ec” does not connote “e-commerce” to anyone, 2) “wid” does not connote “widget” to anyone, and 3) “widgets” is very 2005.
Maybe “Ecwid” seemed brilliant in Russia, where the company was founded, but it’s unfathomable, not to mention icky-sounding, in the US. Now that the company has offices in Southern California, it’s time for a deep rethink.
By the way, when I tweeted about the Ecwid name last month, the company responded defensively:
@fritinancy good or bad, it’s unique, and we reap lots of benefits from that. And so do our customers too.
μBiome uses the Greek letter μ—the symbol for “micro”—in its logo, but the English letter “u” everywhere else (ubiome.com; “uBiome is the world’s first effort to map the human microbiome with citizen science”).
So is the company name pronounced “microbiome” or “you-biome”? Or “mee-biome” (μ in modern Greek)? Or “myoo-biome” (μ in English)? It looks as though μBiome has learned nothing from the confusing example of μTorrent (scroll down to #4).
When your company is called White Dental Supply and you don’t sell dental supplies, people naturally get confused. No matter how many times you say “We’re an Internet marketing company!” they still ask for floss samples. So you change the name. To Pitooey!With an exclamation mark. Because it sounds like what you do after you brush and rinse? No, because it’s “the language of penguins.”
The name Pitooey! promotes the strong social media and mobile marketing background of our company. In 2013 we will be pivoting into a new industry with a suite of exciting products and services, and this name change reflects this exciting transformation.