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?
Trilby: A soft hat, traditionally made of felt, with a narrow brim and indented crown.
The trilby hat style takes its name from Trilby, the title and principal character of an 1894 novel by the British writer and caricaturist* George du Maurier (grandfather of Daphne du Maurier). In Du Maurier’s story, Trilby O’Ferrall is a half-Irish woman living la vie bohème in Paris; she’s transformed from artist’s model to opera diva through the hypnotic powers of a sinister mesmerist named Svengali. In one production of the play that was adapted from the novel, the actress playing Trilby wore a distinctive short-brimmed hat that became a fashionable menswear staple. Du Maurier may have borrowed the name “Trilby” from an 1822 novel, Trilby, ou le lutin d’Argail,by Charles Nodier, in which Trilby was a Scottish fairy; the ballet La Sylphide is based on the French story.
(Like trilby, “Svengali” also entered the lexicon: it’s “a person who exerts a sinister controlling influence,” usually over a woman. “The name has been absorbed into the language as irrevocably as ‘Simon Legree’ as a definition of cruelty, or ‘Scrooge’ of parsimony,” wrote Avis Berman in a 1993 article for Smithsonian Magazine. Trilby also contributed the phrase “in the altogether” as a euphemism for “naked.”)
From the back cover of the Oxford World’s Classics paperback edition of Trilby (2009):
Immensely popular for years, the novel led to a hit play, a series of popular films, Trilby products from hats to ice-cream, and streets in Florida named after characters in the book.
“When Simon Tam dropped out of college in California and moved to Portland, Ore., to become a rock star, the last tangle he imagined falling into was a multiyear battle with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office over his band’s name.” The trademark tussle over “The Slants,” which the USPTO has deemed “disparaging” and thus ineligible for protection. (For a more technical perspective, see this Brent Lorentz post at Duets Blog.)
The strange charm of cutthroat compounds like pickpocket, scarecrow, and, well, cutthroat: Stan Carey on these rare English words“that have a long, colourful history and constitute a very interesting category.” (I wonder how the newish fondleslab fits in?)
The 2014 Social Security Administration stats on baby names are out, and the Baby Name Wizard blog has discovered some interesting trends in the data. The biggest trend? What naming expert Laura Wattenberg calls “the great smoothing of American baby names”: goodbye “chunky” names (Jayden, Jessica), hello “silky,” vowel-rich names (Amanda, Mia, Noah, Liam).
Speaking of popular names, here’s a fun tool to discover what your “today baby name” would be, based on the ranking of your own name in the year you were born. The tools works backward too: If I’d been born in the 1890s, chances are I’d have been named Minnie. More than a time-waster, the tool can be a big help in character-naming. (May take a while for the tool to load.)
“She originally went by Flo White, then Lord of the Strings. She eventually settled on the Period Fairy. It was more straightforward.” A new ad from category-busing Hello Flo, which sells a Period Starter Kit to adolescent girls.
Weddings are a $55 billion industry in the United States; in 2014 the average wedding—average!—cost about $31,000. Doing their share to boost that sum are wedding magazines: Unlike much of the suffering publishing world, they have a captive, eager, and free-spending readership.
Dozens of wedding magazines succeed, month after month, in spite of their names, which are almost as indistinguishable as their cover photography: Brides. Your Wedding. Southern Weddings. Southern Bride. Martha Stewart Wedding. InStyle Weddings. Weddings with Style. Modern Wedding. Perfect Wedding.
The contents are almost identical as well: gowns, makeup, hairstyles, “destinations,” planning, invitations, food. Oh, and horoscopes. Superstition sells.
This week, a new contender joins the crowd, one that promises to “elevate love and personality over spending and aesthetics” and to explore “the intersections of creativity, community, and feminism in the wedding world.” Its publishers call themselves, naturally, “disruptors”; they envision their target market as “game-changing couples.”
What a refreshing idea! If only the name of the magazine rose to the occasion.
If you’re considering a coined name for your company or product, it’s helpful to keep in mind a general rule of English pronunciation: When a vowel precedes a single consonant that’s followed by an e, the first vowel is long. Double the consonant and the vowel becomes shortened.
Later: long a. Latter: short a. Miler: long i. Miller: short i.
Yes, yes, there are exceptions. But coined words are like hoofbeats: we expect a horse, not a zebra. We look for simplicity, not conundrums.
For many of my naming clients, the definition of “an available name” has expanded beyond trademark and domain to include a wide range of social media—not just Twitter and Facebook but also, in some cases, Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest, and other platforms. Checking each service was a chore until I discovered Namecheckr, which instantly screens for name availability across 18 platforms, including a few I’d never heard of (Papaly, IFTTT, Dribbble). If your first choice isn’t available everywhere you’d like it to be, try adding a word (go, shop, mobile, or whatever’s appropriate).
Consistency across all platforms should be your goal. When it isn’t achievable—if, say, you can claim ExcitingNewCo everywhere except on Facebook—I recommend modifying the brand name. Just don’t change the name for every platform. If all your modifications keep showing up as taken, it’s time to rethink your naming strategy and develop some claimable alternatives.
Namecheckr also screens for domain availability in four extensions: .com, .net, .org, and .io. That’s helpful, but it isn’t the end of the story. Many “taken” domains are in fact up for sale on the aftermarket; you’ll need to do a little extra digging into WhoIs,or query a domain broker, to learn who owns the domain and how much they’re asking. (Remember to negotiate!)There are also many options beyond the four primary domain extensions, including .co and .biz—often a good fit for smaller businesses—as well as country codes (.is, .ee, .la, .re, etc.) and newer extensions such as .moe, .pizza, .surf, and .tax. Here’s a complete list.
Namecheckr is not a substitute for comprehensive legal screening, which should be done by an experienced and savvy trademark lawyer before you embark on website development or any other brand activity. Twitter handles are free and domains are cheap, but a trademark lawsuit can be very, very expensive.
There’s lots of advice out there for creating company and product names. (Some of that advice is available righthereon this blog.) It’s much harder to find out what to do after you’ve developed and vetted that list of names. How should you reveal your top name candidates to your co-founders, the executive team, or the board of directors? How best to persuade and guide your audience toward making or endorsing a decision? How to respond if someone says, “I dunno … I just don’t like it”?
In my experience, this can be the toughest stage of the naming challenge. Here are five tips for making your case.
Don’t read “How to Name a Baby” to learn how to name a baby. Read it for insights into historical baby-naming trends and to confirm your hunches (e.g., “the popular girl name Reagan is for Republicans”). Also: charts!
Given names are “one of the last social acceptable frontiers of class war.”Also: nominative determination, implicit egotism, and how the Internet has made baby naming more difficult. Part 1 of a four-part podcast series about names from Australian radio network ABC. The presenter, Tiger Webb, has an interesting name story himself. (Hat tip: Superlinguo.)
The not-so-secret jargon of doctors is full of acronyms: a flea—fucking little esoteric asshole—is an intern, an FLK is a “funny-looking kid,” and an “SFU 50 dose” is the amount of sedative it takes for 50 percent of patients to shut the fuck up.
Ever wonder what value-creating winners do all day? Here’s Business Town to enlighten you. It’s “an ongoing project attempting to explain our highly intangible, deeply disruptive, data-driven, venture-backed, gluten-free economic meritocracy to the uninitiated. With apologies to Richard Scarry.”
“The decision is made. The name won’t be changed.” – Tim Mahoney, head of marketing for Chevy, speaking to the Detroit Free Press about the Bolt electric vehicle, whose name is strikingly similar to that of the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid. In fact, a Spanish speaker would pronounce the two names identically. (Hat tip: Jonathon Owen.)