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.
“Years ago, I asked one of my mentors what he thought was the hardest part of designing a typeface. I was expecting ‘the cap S’ or ‘the italic lowercase’ or something like that. But he answered without hesitation: the name. Finding the name is the hardest part.” (Tobias Frere-Joneson the names of typefaces, via Michael Bierut)
“Can I stipulate the awesomeness of a lawsuit based on parts of speech?” Ben Yagoda on the trademark dispute between management consultant Dov Seidman and yogurt maker Chobani over the slogan “How Matters.” (Lingua Franca)
In a tribute to Hayao Miyazaki, director of My Neighbor Totoro and many other brilliant animated films, a new species of velvet worm has been namedEoperipatus totoro. (Via Tom Moultrie)
Eoperipatus totoro. Catbus in My Neighbor Totoro.
“Foodster,” “chefstaurateur,” “drool-worthy”: the food site Eater would very much like to ban their use forever. Not sure what “kerfuffle” is doing on that list—it’s a perfectly cromulent word! (Eater, via Lisa Newman-Wise)
“Crone”? “UAV”? “RPA”? A lot of people in the drone industry hate the word “drone,” but they can’t agree on a replacement. (Wall Street Journal)
Today is National Punctuation Day, a semi-whimsical holiday invented in 2004 by journalist and marketing guy Jeff Rubin. I leave it to others to wail over missing commas and misplaced apostrophes. I celebrate in my own way: by recognizing creative, quirky, and mysterious punctuation in logos, brand names, and marketing communication. (Check this space on Friday for another story about a mysteriously punctuated brand name!)
In July, A+E Networks relaunched its Bio. channel—yes, that’s Bio-with-a-period—as FYI,—yes, that’s FYI-with-a-comma. The channel’s programming “covers a range of stories and experiences that reflect how people actually live their lives today” and “embraces an adventurous, personalized and non-prescriptive approach to peoples’ [sic] taste, space, look, story and more.”
I have no idea what that means. I do know that it’s people’s, people.
“The comma is always a lighter hue and alludes to the idea that there is always something more on FYI.” – Loyalkaspar, the branding agency that designed the new logo.
Additional print work was done by Los Angeles agency And Company. Yes, that is its name.
And Company has its own punctuation story:
And Company logo.
Via Brand New, which had this to say about “FYI,”:
The name of the new channel is certainly catchy. Not only does it work on the same level as other popular cable channels like AMC, TNT, FX, TBS in that it’s an acronym but it also works as lexicon commonly used in verbal and written communication when saying “for your information” proves to time-consuming.
The name is fine. The comma is annoying.
I’d somehow missed the news that in late 2013 Verizon introduced a tablet device named for a punctuation mark: the Ellipsis.
A November 2013 upgrade announcement.
“Ellipsis”--“a series of dots that usually indicates the intentional omission of a word, sentence, or whole section of a text without altering its meaning”—comes from a Greek word meaning “omission.” Maybe Verizon was thinking of ellipse or eclipse. Honestly, I have no idea.
This bath mat from InterDesign is called the iDry Mat!—their exclamation point, not mine. I have no idea why it’s there, but it took me an absurdly long time to stop seeing the “i” as a Spanish-style inverted exclamation mark.
In her National Punctuation Day roundup for Time, Katy Steinmetz notes that “Exclamation marks are becoming harder to avoid, for those who would like to avoid them.” Why? “Because people need something to fill the gaps left by informative cues we get only in face-to-face communication—the raised brows, the wide eyes, the smile.”
Not sure what this has to do with bath mats, but hey! Whatever!
Some punctuation says “Get with the program(ming).”
sf.citi stands for San Francisco Citizens Initiative for Technology and Innovation. I asked my Twitter followers how they interpreted the logo and I got various answers: “Looks like source code.” “The parentheses signal that a variable is being declared: many possible values, only one operation.” I also learned that SF is a generic object-oriented programming language (although that may not be relevant here). Charles Hill (Dustbury) probably hit the nail on the head when he said the logo is meant to convey “We can handle it, whatever it is.”
It looks like source code. But sometimes an apple is just an apple.
Ding*—yes, Ding-with-an-asterisk—is the new name of Ezetop, a service that allows owners of pre-paid mobile phones to add credit (in UK parlance, “to top up”). (Ezetop remains the name of the Irish parent company.)
Perhaps it’s my AP Style background, but I greatly – greatly -- prefer “co-worker.” Without the hyphen, the first thing I see is “cow.” The whole word looks, at a glance, like it’s pronounced “cow irker.” I’ve worked with a lot of people over the years, and as far as I know, none of them has a history of harassing cattle.
Speaking of confused punctuation, Non Talbot Wels (that’s his real name) tweeted this photo of a Pepsi Next promotion:
Taste less sugar? Tasteless sugar? A period or dash at the end of the second line would have been in excellent taste.
Looking for a suitable gift for NPD 2015? For $125, Art We Heart will sell you an Ampersand Garden wall hanging, handmade in Los Angeles of air plants, wood, and moss and measuring about 11 inches square.
The stunted title of David Gilbert’s second novel, “& Sons” (Random House), does a lot of useful work. It hints at succession but also at severance; at a family tree but also at a broken commercial line. The implied absence gestures toward the great stories of intergenerational struggle: Turgenev’s “Fathers and Sons,” Gosse’s “Father and Son.” And then there is that cocky ampersand: slightly offensive in its abstraction, wearily dismissive, the key to the whole coda.
I love the personification in that last sentence.
In early April, PricewaterhouseCoopers(PwC) completed its acquisition of Booz & Company, a 100-year-old management consultancy that had been spun off of rival consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton in 2008. That earlier spinoff had mandated a name change, which is why PwC’s new division is called Strategy&. Without a space. Or a complement to the conjunction.
The website has only this to say about the new name:
As part of the PwC network, Strategy& will be a leading strategy firm in its own right and help PwC as a whole become the pre-eminent strategy-through-execution firm.
The unusual new name is less digitally friendly than may have been intended. You can’t have an ampersand as part of a web address, so former and future clients will have to go to the URL “strategyand.com” to find the website. You could previously find the company at booz.com, which now redirects to the new site.
Nisen reminded readers that:
PwC’s last attempt to rename a business unit was its then-consulting unit, which it christened “Monday” in 2002 (paywall.) That move was widely criticized at the time. IBM bought the unit shortly after, so it’s unknown what the real impact of naming it after a day of the week would have been.
PwC was formed in 1998 when Price Waterhouse (whose history goes back to the London accounting firm of Samuel Price, founded 1849) merged with Coopers & Lybrand (which had had that name since 1957, but also claimed mid-19th-century roots). The odd capitalization was instituted at the time of the merger; poor Lybrand was consigned to obscurity.
In a name review published in June, Catchword’s Beth Gerber praised Strategy&’s “gutsiness” but judged it “dry and bookish: a one-dimensional name.”
To me, “Strategy&” looks less like a corporate name and more like the themeline for an ad campaign. In ads, the sentence could be completed: Strategy& … insights. Strategy& … execution. As a name, though, Strategy& is both too cute and too literal: telling us you do strategy-plus doesn’t give us a benefit, an emotional connection, or a reason to prefer your services over your competitors’. A punctuation mark, no matter how elegantly rendered—and this one is pretty boring—simply isn’t sturdy enough to support a brand identity.
For an elegant and—more to the point—meaningful ampersand, consider the new logo for the South Denmark Philharmonic(Sønderjyllands Symfoniorkester in Danish).
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.)
Loxodrome: A line crossing all of a sphere’s meridians of longitude at the same angle. Coined from Greek loxos (oblique) + dromos (running); the earliest citation is from the 1880 edition of the Library of Universal Knowledge. Also called a rhumb line (possibly from Spanish/Portuguese rumbo/rumo) or spherical helix.
I know what you’re thinking: If a hippodrome is for horse racing—hippos being the Greek word for horse—and a velodrome is for bicycle racing, shouldn’t a loxodrome entail … well, speedy lox?
The new logo for London-based payment-processing company WorldPay. The icon, designed by the London agency SomeOne, was “inspired by the data trails made by money as they travel around the planet seamlessly.”
The first thought is most likely, “Oh, dear god, not another globe or marble thing, please.” Which would be an appropriate reaction but it would also be missing the point. Sure, there are dozens of globe-y things out there that are all meant to convey some sort of global-connected-ness concept, but this one actually does and it has a good motive to be the way it is and because, loxodrome.
An amusing summation, although I’d have deleted the comma after because. Because this.
See more of the WorldPay loxodrome, including a hypnotic GIF animation, at Brand New.
I’ve been interested for years in advertisers’ penchant for turning adjectives into nouns and nouns into verbs. In his regular column for The Week, James Harbeck, a linguistics-trained editor, looks at why these switches—collectively known as anthimeria—work. It’s all about bisociation: “You have two things operating on two different planes or according to two different scripts, and at the point where the two meet, you jump from one to the other. … Bisociation tickles your brain, and that’s just what marketers want to do.”
Here’s something lovely: Vernacular Typography, “dedicated to the documentation and preservation of vanishing examples of lettering in the everyday environment.” A project of the New York Foundation for the Arts, it catalogs ghost signs, Coney Island signs, no-parking signs, subway signs, grammatical-error signs, and much more.
Reason #46,313: The best worst names in superhero comics, compiled with frightening thoroughness by Drew G. Mackie of Back of the Cereal Box. A few of my favorites: Egg Fu, Microwavebelle, Flemgem, and Rice O’Rooney (the San Francisco Threat). If you don’t know why the last one is so bad it’s good, watch this.
On April 22 the New York Times launched The Upshot, an online section that focuses on politics and policy. The name was chosen over 45 also-rans, including Crux, Kernel, Sherpa, and Uncharted. Why did The Upshot prevail? “It’s simple and straightforward,” the editors write, “and there’s no inside joke or historical reference you’ll need to understand what it’s about: a clear analysis of the news, in a conversational tone.”
Now that Pied Piper, the fictional startup in HBO’s “Silicon Valley” series, has an official logo, how well does it stack up?
In November 2012, voters in Washington State legalized marijuana use and authorized the licensing of retail outlets to sell cannabis. (Voter turnout, Wikipedia notes with no apparent irony, was 81 percent, “the highest in the nation.”) Now that Seattle’s first pot stores have been chosen by lottery, let’s take a look at their names. Lots of greens (Greenjuana, Evergreen, Street of Greens, Green Vision, Greenco, Behind the Green Door), quite a bit of 420 (Seattle 420, 420 PM Corp, Highway 420, 420-911), and a few whose owners appear to be fans of “The Wire” (Bellinghamsterdam, Vansterdam, Hamsterdam, New Vansterdam). Kinda meh, if you ask me, but hey—it’s still a budding industry. (Hat tip: Benjamin Lukoff.)
In related news, Fast Company’s Co.Design blog talks to four cannabis-industry experts about “how to brand a high-demand, once-illegal product.” Cherchez les femmes, says Cheryl Shuman, who points to “stiletto stoners”—successful working women who smoke pot—as a key demographic. (Hat tip: Irene Nelson.)
Apple introduced its looped-square “control” icon⌘ in 1983, but the symbol’s origins go back to sixth-century Scandinavia. Tom Chatfield traces the historyof the symbol also known as “St. John’s Arms.”
The dripping-heart symbol was created “in a few hours” by a Finnish graphic designer, Leena Snidate, for the security firm Codenomicon. “Heartbleed” was originally Codenomicon’s internal code name; the bug’s official name is CVE-2014-0160. CVE stands for “common vulnerabilities and exposures.” Read more about Heartbleed in TechCrunchand in Fast Company Design.
And here’s naming news from another corner of the animal kingdom: The Scientific American blog Running Ponies reports on six new species of “child-eating Dracula ants” with “cool ninja names”: Shadow, Labyrinth, and Mirror. The scientific name for this ant subfamily is Amblyoponinae; the genus name, Mystrium, was chosen to evoke “the uncertainty surrounding their general biology, ecology and behaviour.” (Via Our Bold Hero.)
“In the globalized, consumption-fired 21st century, branding is the air we breathe,” writes Frank Viviano in the Spring 2014 issue of California, the Cal Alumni Association magazine. “The Plato and Newton of that volatile universe is David Aaker, a congenial professor emeritus of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, born and raised in the placid calm of Fargo, North Dakota.” Aaker is vice chairman of the global brand consultancy Prophet, the author of the influential business book Brand Relevance, and the creator of the Aaker Model, which, writes Viviano, “asserts that a brand is a vital form of corporate equity, a measurable asset whose value is as important to a business as its capital infrastructure and staff.”
The headline says “On the Internet, All the Good Company Names Are Taken,” but the story (in the Globe and Mail) is really about a different problem. “For all its focus on innovation and disruption, the tech startup world can be downright risk-averse when it comes to naming conventions,” notes tech reporter Omar El Akkad.
Seamful: “An uncertainty in sensing and ambiguity of representations” in design, and especially in interaction design. (Source: Karin Andersson, “Seamful Design in a Seamful Society,” presented 2007.) The opposite of seamless.
Seamful is attributed to Marc Weiser (1952-1999), whose work as a chief scientist at Xerox PARC in the 1990s centered on what Weiser dubbed “ubiquitous computing.” (It’s now called “pervasive computing.”) Weiser used seamful in talks delivered in 1994 and 1995; according to a 2002 paper on seamful ubiquity by MacColl, et al., Weiser called seamlessness “a misleading concept” and suggested “that making things seamless amounts to making everything the same.” Weiser advocated systems “with beautiful seams” as a goal.
The concept has has proved popular (and pervasive). “Whenever I hear someone use the phrase ‘seamless design’ in reference to a large software system, I cringe inside,” wrote Jim McBeath in his “Coding and Life” blog in 2008:
In my view, software systems are like shirts and sidewalks: they should have nice seams in the right places. When done well, those software seams can add to the aesthetics of the system and make it simpler to maintain. When I say “software seams” I am of course referring to the interfaces between the different components of the system. A system with well defined interfaces can be a thing of beauty. Without those well defined interfaces, the system may “crack” in random places like a too-large slab of concrete.
Tomorrowland has always been the most seamful piece of the Parks, starting with the 1955 Disneyland opening. They ran out of money long before completion and had to triage a lot of the park (workers ran around putting Latin plaques on all the weeds that hadn't been landscaped out of existence, turning them into instant botanical exhibits).
I encountered seamful for the first time only recently, when I read an article about “urban computing” by Paul McFedries, who runs the Word Spy website, in the January 2014 issue of IEEE Spectrum:
[W]here once the ideal of pervasive computing was to create seamless, unnoticeable technology, today’s urban computing designers want to build seamful interfaces, whose visibility encourages users to interact directly with systems.
Seamful got me wondering about the ways in which we use the suffixes -ful and -less. We have beautiful but not beautiless, childless but not childful, breathless but not breathful, awful but not awless. On the other hand, we have both shameful and shameless, restful and restless, thankful and thankless—although neither pair represents opposite meanings. (Unlike, say, joyful and joyless or useful and useless.)
The suffixes themselves are ancient, going back to Old English, and every so often someone finds a felicitous way to append one of them in a novel and unexpected way. Clueful—an antonym for clueless—did not exist until 1943, when it appeared in (of all places!) the American Sociological Review. In 1961 it showed up in a Times (UK) advertisement: “Bachelor, thirties, presentable and clueful, seeks worthwhile position now.” Today there’s a Clueful security app for Android and a Clueful content-management consultancy in Melbourne, Australia. Clueful fills a need in our vocabulary: it puts a sharper edge on “informed” and “knowledgeable,” and it sounds savvier than “savvy.”
Likewise with seamful, which succeeds because it evokes an image and plugs a semantic gap. It seems to be a keeper.