There’s a reason that you’re going to see a lot of these from drone flyers like me, and it’s this: once you get past the novelty of taking a camera high up in the air, getting a bird’s eye view of stuff is actually a little boring.
What birds see is actually a little boring. Humans are interesting. Getting close to stuff is interesting. I bet if we could strap tiny cameras to bird heads, most of what we’d want to look at would happen when they fly close to people. If we could, we’d put cameras on bird heads to take pictures of ourselves.
Dronie is a brand-new word, but articles about dronies often include a very old word: gimbal. (Photojojo: “A gimbal holds your camera level as your drone sways left, right, front, or back. It's especially handy on windy days.”) When gimbal entered English in the 16th century, it meant “joints” or “connecting links”; it comes from Old French jumel from Latin gemellus, meaning “twin.” In modern usage, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, a gimbal is:
A device consisting of two rings mounted on axes at right angles to each other so that an object, such as a ship's compass, will remain suspended in a horizontal plane between them regardless of any motion of its support.
Today, March 14, is Pi Day (3.14), at least in countries that express dates in that order. Somewhere in the trillion digits of pi I’m pretty sure there’s a 23, which is my number of the day. Here are some 23-named brands … and some loosely related factoids.
TechCrunch calls the photo-sharing app 23snaps“a Facebook for families.”
Did you know that there are 23 pairs of chromosomes that carry all of the genetic information that makes your child the wonderful, unique person they grow to be? One chromosome, like one photograph, is just not enough to tell the whole story.
When I originally wrote about 23andMe, in 2007, the company was just over a year old and still doing DNA testing for health risks. It has a new logo now.
Founded April 2006 in Mountain View, California.
It also has changed its business model. In December 2013, in response to a Food and Drug Administration warning letter, 23andMe suspended its health testing. It now provides only “ancestry-related genetic reports.”
I’m guessing the b---- has 23 pairs of chromosomes.
The origin of “23 skidoo,” a phrase associated with the 1920s but in fact a couple of decades older, is shrouded in mystery. Barry Popik’s Big Apple blog discredits three popular theories; the World Wide Words discussion forum shredsseven. It is a dead certainty that the “23” has no relationship to human chromosomes, because their correct number wasn’t determined until 1956.
There is a vintage-clothing store called 23 Skidoo in Campbell, California (Santa Clara County).
Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day (the 13th annual, by my reckoning), and to mark the occasion I’ve gone on a treasure hunt for pirate-type brands. I’m not dropping a dime on actual piratical deeds, you understand: this is just good clean yo-ho-ho-and-a-bottle-of-rum fun.
[W]hat the world really needs, of course, is an anonymous meme generator with a chain letter-styled remixable twist. Meet Yarrly (to be said with your best pirate voice). Created by London-based Dave Ganly and Holly Clarke outside of their tech day jobs, the Android app lets anyone create two panel images and add text in the style of a meme maker.
But here’s the part the makes branding consultants and trademark lawyers want to walk the plank: each Yarrly remix is called a “yarrly” – lower case. Bad, bad branding!
Yarr, Pirate Maps is “just like usin’ real google maps, but better – ’cos everythin’ is all piratey and mappy.” Example: when you mouse over a map, the manicule is a skeleton hand. Yarr, Pirate Maps, is not related to Yarrly, as far as I can tell.
Scurvy was the scourge of real pirates—the bleeding gums, the jaundice, the suppurating wounds—but apparently Sanuk, a Southern California footwear company, likes the sound of “Scurvy” for a men’s casual shoe.*
* They look like shoes to me, but Sanuk says otherwise:
The company name comes from the Thai word for “happiness.”
I learned of the Scurvy from Jan Freeman, who queried me in an email: “Do you suppose they think ‘scurvy’ is just a pirate word (‘ye scurvy dog’) and have no idea it's a disease?” Actually, Sanuk seems to know exactly what it’s doing. Here’s the product copy on Amazon (probably supplied by the manufacturer):
With a name like Scurvy, it’s got to be good!** In fact, this sidewalk surfer from Sanuk is the epitome of wholesomeness, crafted with vegan sensibilities. With a hand-crafted canvas upper and a “laces or no laces” option it’s like two shoes in one. Inside, a soft canvas liner a contoured footbed makes this shoe a nice place for your foot to be. And down below matey? A herringbone rubber outsole ensures you won't slip while walking the plank.
Still, severe vitamin C deficiency is no joke. I picture the Scurvy being worn by Bleeding Gums Murphy, R.I.P.
** A scurvy act of piracy! That “With a name like__” slogan was originally coined by Smucker’s and, of course, parodied by Saturday Night Live in the famous “Jam Hawkers” skit.
Newt Gingrich—remember when he ran for president and talked about building bases on the moon?—now appears to be campaigning for Andy Rooney’s old slot on “60 Minutes.” “We’re really puzzled,” he tells his YouTube audience, a look of grave concern furrowing his brow, a familiar-looking device in his hand. “We spent weeks [!] trying to figure out whaddya call this.” This is what you and I call a cell phone or a mobile phone or a smartphone, but that doesn’t satisfy Gingrich. He’s soliciting new, more precise names for the gizmo he used to call “a handheld computer.” Commenters have been gleefully obliging; my favorite nominations are Talkie-Viewie (maybe “TV” for short?), roundcorner-camera-communications-email-apps-thingy, iMoon, and horseless telephone. (Via TechCrunch.)
I caught this a few days too late for Underwear Week but can’t resist sharing it anyway. Triumph, the Swiss bra company, last week introduced its concept bra of the year at a Tokyo press conference. The theme: “branomics,” “a playful take on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ‘three-arrow’ economic revival plan,” according to Reuters. “We hope that as the Japanese economy grows, we can also help bust sizes to get bigger,” said a Triumph spokeswoman. (Via The 3% Conference.)
Andris Pone of Coin Branding, in Toronto, applauds Frogbox, a “green” moving company in more than one sense. It’s a great brand story, Andris writes: “The Frogbox positioning statement, From one pad to another, exemplifies the message of ease by creating a promise (completely delivered on) that one can move from their old home to their new one with all the difficulty of a hop.”
Corporate buzzword-wise, “delight” is shaping up to be the new “passion.” (Via MJF.)
You’ll need to subscribe to Visual Thesaurus to read Mike Pope’s excellent column, “What’s in a -Nym?”, which goes beyond antonyms and synonyms to more obscure and fascinating terms like contranym, retronym, and backronym. But of course you’re already a subscriber.
I also can’t resist an opportunity to combine entomology, etymology, and a plug for Fritinancy. As language maven Ben Zimmer—my editor at Visual Thesaurus—observed in an email to me:
I noticed that the first OED cite for “fritin(i)ancy” is from Sir Thomas Browne’s Pseudodoxia Epidemica, talking about cicadas. (In this edition, it’s actually “fritinnitus.”) Johnson defined “fritinancy” as “the scream of an insect, as the cricket or cicada” (citing Browne) and subsequent dictionaries used similar definitions. (Johnson didn’t define “cicada,” oddly enough.)
My original post about Fritinancy cited Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913), which mentioned crickets but not cicadas. The post was written before I had access to the OED online, a weak defense but the one I’m sticking with.
But, Ben told me, “there are plenty of people who pronounce it KAH, and many dictionaries give it as an acceptable alternate. I don’t have a good sense of the regional distribution of the two pronunciations, though.”
Cucoloris: A screen with oddly shaped holes cut through it, placed before a light source to throw diverse shadows on an otherwise uniform surface. (Source: Idiom Savant: Slang As It Is Slung.) Also spelled cucaloris, kookaloris, kukaloris, cookaloris, cucalorus, etc. Shortened to cookie, kook, or cuke. Alternate names: gobo, ulcer, dapple sheet.
Popular in the 1930s; back in style again with the movies of Steven Spielberg, who uses a kookalouris with underlighting to show faces that seem to be illuminated by reflections from pots of gold, buckets of diamonds, pools of fire, pirate maps, and radioactive kidneys.
It’s fairly well established that cucoloris, however you spell it, comes from the world of Hollywood cinematographers. Beyond that, however, the word’s origins and etymology are frustratingly unclear. In an episode that aired last year, Grant Barrett, co-host of the radio show “A Way with Words,” told listeners that he’d spent “days” researching a Double-Tongued Dictionary entry for cookie.
“Hollywood is filled with people who like to invent myth,” Barrett said. “I counted seven different origin stories for this term, and they’re fun, but they’re throwaway.” The best story he encountered is from a footnote in a 1954 issue of the Western Folklore journal, which called cucoloris “a coined word of no special philological significance or implication.” The writer did suggest, however, that cucoloris “might be related to the famed director George Cukor.”
A claimed etymology is that kukaloris is Greek for “breaking of light,” but there seems to be no evidence to support this, nor can the etymological claims in the 2001 cite below* be verified. Another claim is that it is named after its inventor, a Mr. Cucoloris; however, this, too, lacks supporting evidence.
Nor is there evidence to support the assertion in TV Tropes:
The word cukoloris is Gaelic and means “ghost charm.” How a Gaelic word became a standard term in film production is unknown.
A note about Roger Ebert: I never met or corresponded with him, but I was among his many admiring readers and Twitter followers—even when I was muttering “WTF?” about his conclusions. In 2010, I attended a program at the San Francisco International Film Festival at which he received an award; cancer had already taken away his ability to talk, but his impish wit and pointed opinions suffered not a bit from the intervention of a speech synthesizer. After answering questions from the stage of the Castro Theater, he introduced Julia, which starred Tilda Swinton – “Saint Tilda,” Ebert called her – and which Ebert assured us was a great, great film we were privileged to see. (Released in 2009, it had been largely ignored by theaters.) Now, I grant that Swinton is never less than fully committed to a role, but Julia was godawful: violent, amoral, ugly, pointless, and, at 144 minutes, seemingly interminable. About a third of the audience left before it was over. I stuck it out, but – to borrow a phrase Ebert himself made famous – I hated, hated, hated this movie. And yet I loved Ebert for championing it, and for being not just a critic but also an exuberant fan. I will miss him a lot.
Designer Ben Pieratt has created a “brand in a box”—name, logo, URL, social-media accounts, website theme, and more—that he’s selling for $18,000. It’s up to the buyer to choose how to use it. The brand’s name is Hessian, which Pieratt says he chose to honor Richard Hess, an advertising art director who died in 1991. Until I learned that, I assumed it had something to do with the German mercenary soldiers who fought on the British side in the American Revolution, or possibly a type of coarse woven cloth. The domain included in Pieratt’s brand package is dot-tv, which may be a deal-breaker for potential buyers. Read more at AdFreak.
“To us, the unicorn symbolizes the never-ending quest for mastery”: a Tumblr of the absurd, pretentious, and just plain daffy things branding agencies say about themselves, from the understandably anonymous Agency Wank.
In a similar vein: Design Jargon Bullshit, ripped from actual websites. Sample: “We designed a series of bubbles that represented both the idea of the consumer as having options and the letter ‘o’.”
I’ll wrap this up with something substantial: “102 Spectacular Nonfiction Stories from 2012,” selected by Conor Friedersdorf and presented in alphabetical order by author’s last name. Not only does the list contain a whole bunch of articles I missed last year, it includes several publications I’d never heard of, like Idle Words and Defunct. I’m looking forward to getting acquainted.
When you think of boudoir photography, the picture that probably comes to mind is women striking pinup poses in classic Frederick’s of Hollywood lingerie. But what if, instead of a woman, it’s a man seducing the camera in his skivvies? Then it’s dudeoir, of course.
Sure enough, the subject of the story, Oakland photographer Mariah Carle, devotes a section of her website to “Men Dudeoir” (sic; content reproduced verbatim):
Boudoir is for men too, Call it Dudeoir, call it nude photos, call it anything you like. You and your partner will love seeing professional high quality photos of you in your best-dressed or undressed look.
Why dudeoir and not, say, boydoir? Your guess is as good as mine; maybe the rhyme with boudoir makes dudeoir irresistible. The French word boudoir—“a lady’s private sitting room or bedroom”—comes from an Old French verb, bouder, that means “to sulk,” so it’s literally “a room for sulking.” “Boudoir photography”—in which the (female) subject is scantily clothed, softly lit, and posed (sulking?) amid bedroom trappings—is as old as photography itself, but the term seems to have been created in recent decades. According to a thinly researched Wikipedia entry, a California studio, Motherlode Photography, coined “boudoir photography” in 1980. No link is provided, but there’s a Motherlode Photography in California Gold Country—which explains but doesn’t excuse the name—that was established in 1976 and still lists “boudoir photography” among its services.
UPDATE: Despite a promising start, Linea shut down in December 13, 2013. The naming case study is still relevant, however.
I’m pleased to announce the official launch of Linea, a photo-sharing app for iOS and Android devices and (soon) for the Web. Working closely with Post+Beam, the innovation and communication firm, I developed the Linea name and tagline—Your Stories. Your Pictures. Yours to Share—along with much of the brand vocabulary for the product.
The primary naming challenge with this project was making the product stand out in a crowded namescape. Most of the competitive names refer directly to cameras and picture-taking: Flickr, Photobucket, Shutterfly, Instagram, and so on. We wanted our name to suggest seamless, secure photo organizing and sharing rather than the photographic act. The name also needed to appeal to adult women with concerns about online privacy; a second market consists of professional photo organizers who could use the app with their customers.
In the naming brief, I identified several key objectives and criteria for the name, including:
No overtly descriptive words. Metaphors are preferred.
Should sound cool and modern … yet warm and human.
Should sound effortless … just like the app itself.
Should sound sophisticated.
Should suggest “special moments, special people.”
Then there was the app’s most distinctive design feature: a horizontal timeline that allowed easy identification and sorting of photos. The “line” concept had already given rise to the app’s code name, Ziplyne. That name didn’t sound feminine enough (and it wasn’t available legally), but Linea soon emerged as an appealing alternative. The vowel ending gave it a feminine personality, and the name sounds both swift and elegant—desirable attributes for our market.
To reinforce the desired pronunciation—LIN-ee-ah—among the internal audience (design team and photo organizers), I wrote a spoof of the Groucho Marx song “Lydia, the Tattooed Lady, in which “Linea” replaces “Lydia.”
Next came the tagline: Your Stories. Your Pictures. Yours to Share. It reinforces the idea that photographs are more than digital files or prints: they’re memories. The repeated use of your reinforces the security theme. (No one sees these photos unless you choose to share them.)
Linea.com was not available (the owner hadn’t developed the domain, but wasn’t interested in selling), so we went with a call-to-action URL: getlinea.com.
The Linea app is available through the iTunes App Store and on the Web. An Android version will be released soon.