The name of the week in tech circles is Xohm, Sprint's new WiMax wireless-data service (available in Spring 2008). The name is pronounced "zoam."
"Not exactly sure what that's supposed to evoke," writes San Francisco Chronicle tech blogger Ryan Kim. "Roaming, I suppose?" One of Kim's commenters suggests that the name reminds him of CHOAM (Combine Honnete Ober Advancer Mercantiles), an invention of novelist Frank Herbert in his "Dune" series.
Rob Pegoraro, who writes the Faster Forward blog for the Washington Post, calls Xohm "a spellcheck-defying moniker." When he first heard it uttered by a Sprint executive, says Pegoraro, he thought the guy had said zone. "I didn't immediately connect that to the all-caps term in a press release that I had inwardly voiced as "ex-ahm," Pegoraro adds.
Even in an industry littered with bizarre, computer-generated brand names, Xohm stands apart for its combination of minimal apparent relevance to the product in question and difficulty of pronunciation. It's even weirder coming from a telecom conglomerate whose name actually would have appeared in an English-language dictionary a century ago.
(Hat tip to Ben Zimmer for the Faster Forward link.)
Telecommunications lawyer Jonathan L. Kramer suggested in an email forwarded to me:
Kramer also pointed out that the "Xohm" trademark is owned by Caroline Ventures, a Nigerian entity whose home page states, not very reassuringly:
We are a trading company located in the southern state of Nigeria with brnches [sic] in 14 states of Nigeria. We deals [sic] in general goods like appereal [sic], Food and drinks, agricutural [sic] products etc.
"Money will change hands," Kramer predicts.
As for me, my first reaction was that the name was pronounced Zo-am, to rhyme with Noam (as in Chomsky). But I'm funny that way.
I suppose we'll get used to Xohm; Sprint certainly has the cash to force it down our throats. But I can't help thinking the name might have been put to better use, e.g.:
The call letters of a Baja California radio station
A new prescription mood-elevator derived from soma
Text-message shorthand for "kisses and hugs, Anna Maria"
A greeting in an African click language (actually spelled X!ohm)
Bender's madcap robotic sidekick in the forthcoming Futurama movie, Bender's Big Score
The name of Angelina Jolie's next child.