Here’s how New Yorker staff writer John Colapinto begins “Famous Names,” in the magazine’s October 3 issue: with an edge-of-your-seat account of the naming process that resulted in … the BlackBerry! In 1998! Stop the presses!
That story was already well known to those of us in the branding business, and to many civilians as well, when Alex Frankel related it in greater detail in his book Wordcraft, which was published in 2004. It was repeated in newspapers and magazines. But maybe you haven’t heard it. In that case, read the New Yorker article. Yes, it’s behind a paywall. Sorry about that.
You should also read Colapinto’s article if you’ve never heard the story of Ford Motor Company and the branding of the Edsel. It occurred in 1957, and it’s been told in print about a zillion times. But maybe it was new to John Colapinto and his editors.
I wonder about those editors, though—or, more specifically, about the magazine’s vaunted fact-checkers. Maybe they were on vacation, or replaced by interns, when this quote from the story’s protagonist, David Placek, made it into print: “You want to name it something that the big guys—A.T.&T., Southwestern Bell, California Bell—would never think of.”
Memo from the Left Coast: there never was a “California Bell,”* only Pacific Bell. Oh, and while I’m being picky: New Yorker, may I introduce you to Snopes.com? I don’t believe you’ve met, because you clearly never read the authoritative debunking of the Chevy Nova myth. Nova does not mean “no go” in Spanish; that's no va, which has a stress on the second syllable rather than the first. As a matter of fact, the Chevy Nova sold quite briskly in Spanish-speaking markets.