At the Frankfurt Motor Show this week, Bentley Motors, a wholly owned subsidiary of Volkswagen since 1998, unveiledits first SUV, the Bentayga. Bentley has already sold out the full first-year production – 3,500 vehicles – of the $229,100 (base price), 600-horsepower behemoth. Buyer #1 was Queen Elizabeth II, who reportedly will use the vehicle for her hunting expeditions in Scotland. Tally ho!
It’s hard to stay clean when you’re sleeping on the streets. A new San Francisco nonprofit, Lava Mae, has an ingenious remedy: transforming old Muni buses into mobile bathrooms, complete with stall showers and toilets, that travel to neighborhoods with the greatest need.
Lave Mae and its founder, former public-relations executive Doniece Sandoval, were featuredin the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this week on the occasion of the unveiling of Bus No. 2. Sandoval’s plans include expansion throughout California.
“Delivering dignity, one shower at a time.” For more on the “One X at a Time” sloganclone, seethis 2012 post(and follow the links for more).
According to the Chronicle story:
Lava Mae’s simple solution of providing homeless people with showers and toilets has captured the attention of people around the world, many of whom have asked Sandoval to help them create a similar program.
To deal with the huge interest, Sandoval is working with the International Centre for Social Franchising, which is based in London but also has an office in San Francisco. It seeks to help organizations with a social benefit replicate their work in other places around the world.
Sandoval has decided to focus on serving 30,000 homeless people around California by 2020 — and recently met with state Sen. Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles to discuss a Lava Mae-type program there.
There’s a feel-good story behind the Lava Mae name, too. Here’s how the organization’s website tells it (verbatim):
In Spanish, “lavame” means “wash me”
In our culture, we refer to vehicles in the feminine as in, “She’s a beauty, isn’t she?”
In the South, (where our founder grew up), it’s not uncommon for people to have two first names e.g Billy Bob, Peggy Sue. Putting it all together gave birth to the name Lava Mae
OK, the copy needs some, um, cleaning up. If you want to be picky about it – hey, it’s in my job description! – it’s “lávame,” with an acute accent to mark the stress on the first syllable. And I cringed a little at the bio that reads “Brett is the principle and founder of StudioTerpeluk.”
I’ll stop quibbling now and instead reaffirm that I like the Lava Mae name: it’s friendly, personal, down-home, clever, and bilingual. (The echoes of Fannie Mae and Sallie Mae, which also aim to help people in need, may be intentional.) And I applaud the work Lava Mae is doing. In a region dominated by whiz-kid techpreneurs whose idea of “making the world a better place” is selling an app that does stuff your mom used to do for you, this is a truly creative and, yes, disruptive initiative.
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.
I was meandering through Costco, looking for some yummy tofu-skin noodles I’d sampled during a store demo a few weeks earlier. I never found the the noodles—Costco can be like that—but I did spot True Story, a new-to-me brand of organic meat products.
Hmm. You can tell a story, hear a story, read a story, or film a story. But can you taste a story?
Almost overnight, it seems, the world has fallen head over heels for Slack.
“I am basically in love with Slack,” declares About.me founder Tony Conrad in a testimonial on Slack’s home page. “Slack, a messaging tool designed for team collaboration, is the working digital world’s latest paramour,” writes Scott Rosenberg in an admiring article published earlier this month on Medium (“Shut Down Your Office. You Now Work in Slack”). “Slack is the new favourite tool of newsrooms” reads a headline in Digiday, which calls itself “the authority on digital media.” In April, Slack’s co-founders won a Crunchie—one of the technology awards bestowed each year by TechCrunch—for founder of the year. Slack is also the investment world’s BFF: launched less than two years ago, it has only about 750,000 daily users—more than two-thirds of whom pay nothing for the service—but is worth $2.8 billion, according to Business Insider.
Chart via Business Insider(May 19, 2015), which is shaky on its spelling of Pinterest.
The numbers and accolades are impressive. But how does that name—Slack—stack up?
The company has an athleisure*(athletic + leisure) pedigree: one of the co-founders, Shannon Wilson, is married to Chip Wilson, who founded the yogawear pioneer Lululemon. The other co-founder is Chip’s oldest son, JJ. (Chip Wilson, who is an informal adviser to Kit and Ace, “resigned from Lululemon’s board last year, after a disastrous episode involving unintentionally see-through yoga pants,” writes Widdicombe.)
Where did the Kit and Ace name come from? Here’s Widdicombe:
JJ oversees branding for the Kit and Ace line. The name, he explained, refers to two imaginary “muses” that he and Shannon came up with. Kit is the name Shannon would have given a daughter (for Vancouver’s Kitsilano beach, “where all my dreams came true,” she said). “I think of Kit as Shannon in her heyday,” JJ said. “An artist at heart, a creator. A West Coast girl. An athlete.” Ace, her masculine counterpart, is “a West Coast guy. He likes things that are easy and carefree.” He filled out the picture: Ace surfs. “He’s graduated college. He’s thirty-two. He’s maybe dating The One.”
Could Ace be modelled on JJ? His parents teased. “He’s a bit of a pain in the ass!” Shannon said.
“A little pretentious,” Chip said, laughing.
There’s no explanation of the symbol that stands in for “and.”
Besides being plausible personal names, kit and ace have other relevant meanings. Kit can mean “a set of articles or implements used for a specific purpose” (a survival kit; a shaving kit), while ace can mean “expert” or “first rate.” Both words can function as verbs (to kit out, to ace a serve) as well as nouns.
This isn’t JJ’s first foray into retail, or into company names that follow the X + Y formula: He founded Wings + Horns, a menswear company, in Vancouver in 2004.
Kit and Ace sells clothes made from a washable fabric blend the company calls Qemir (sometimes uncapitalized; pronunciation uncertain): 81 percent viscose, 9 percent cashmere, 10 elastene. The company has applied for trademark protection for “Qemir” and for a tagline: “Technical Cashmere.”
For your weekend reading, may I recommend “The Weird Science of Naming New Products,” a longish story in the New York Times Sunday Magazine about my favorite subject: naming. The article, by the cultural critic and author Neal Gabler, is essentially a case study of how one Palo Alto technology startup got its name.
I won’t spoil the story for you by revealing any more details, but I will tell you that Anthony Shore, who developed the name, is an acquaintance and a very talented namer; I know many of the other name developers mentioned in the article, too (we’re a close-knit coterie here in the Bay Area). It’s great to see a general-interest publication devote this much serious attention to our field. (It’s been tried before, with mixed results:see my post about a 2011 article in The New Yorker.)
Congratulations to Anthony on the coverage! And here’s hoping all prospective clients read the article and gain an appreciation for the work that goes into creating memorable names.
A few quibbles about the Times Magazine story:
“Weird science”? Oh, c’mon. It’s also weird art. And weird legal stuff.
“The hills above Oakland”? Check a map. Those prominences are the Oakland hills; they’re within the city limits.
The iPad wasn’t confused with a tampon; it was confused with a pad. See my 2010 post.
“We’re taxed with doing something different”? Yes, branding can be a taxing effort, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what Anthony said. I suspect that Gabler mis-heard tasked, or the copyeditor changed it.
This week a San Francisco startup, Marvina, launched its subscription delivery service for medical marijuana. For $95, $175, or $325 a month, San Franciscans who are qualified under California’s Compassionate Use Act can receive 7, 14, or 28 “top-shelf” grams of cannabis, tastefully packaged and delivered to their doors by an employee of a medical-marijuana dispensary.
“Co-founder Dane Pieri came up with the idea because he was intimidated and overwhelmed by the cannabis dispensaries,” writes reporter Zara Stone in OZY.* “‘It’s like when you’re in the grocery store at the wine aisle; we didn’t know what to do,’ he told OZY. He thought he’d create a service where choice wasn’t in the equation.”
Nothing. Well actually its [sic] a nod to Malvina Reynolds, one of our favorite songwriters. Her song Little Boxes was also the theme song of one of our favorite TV shows, Weeds. (Ok, when we talk about Weeds we really mean seasons 1-3 because the other seasons really don't compare to those first three. If you're a fan of the show you know what we mean.)
“Weeds,” of course, was Showtime’s long-running series about a housewife named Nancy (which also happens to be the name of Malvina Reynolds’s daughter) who starts selling marijuana after her husband’s premature death leaves her family in dire straits. The name of the fictional community in which Nancy lives, Agrestic, has been adopted by a marijuana dispensary in Corvallis, Oregon.
Marvina is an elegant portmanteau**—mar from marijuana and vina from Malvina—that stands out amid the ticky-tacky clutter of similar-sounding names in this area (see my post on 420 names). The Malvina Reynolds connection has extra resonance for a service that delivers its product in “little boxes.”
Speaking of weedy names, I’m headed to Portland, Oregon, for the next several days to attend the annual meeting of the American Name Society and sister organizations. On Saturday afternoon I’ll be giving a talk at ANS titled “Velvet Elvis at the Mary Mart: The New Normal Nomenclature of Legal Cannabis.” I hope to see some of you at my session – or maybe at the American Dialect Society’s Word of the Year vote Friday afternoon.