This just in: Blackwater Worldwide, the private military contractor whose employees were responsible for the shooting deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians in September 2007, has decided to whitewash (whitewater?) its image with a new name: Xe.
From the Associated Press report:
The parent company's new name is pronounced like the letter "z."* Blackwater Lodge & Training Center — the subsidiary that conducts much of the company's overseas operations and domestic training — has been renamed U.S. Training Center Inc., the company said Friday. ...
Blackwater president Gary Jackson said in a memo to employees the new name reflects the change in company focus away from the business of providing private security.
"The volume of changes over the past half-year have taken the company to an exciting place and we are now ready for two of the final, and most obvious changes," Jackson said in the note.
ABC News adds that the company "hopes to be a 'one-stop shopping source for world class services in the fields of security, stability, aviation, training and logistics.'"
One-stop shopping! That sounds like fun. Unmarked bills only?
From what I can tell, the company's menacing logo—a sharp-clawed animal paw—remains unchanged. And it's hard to know what the URL will be: Xe.com is owned by "the world's favorite currency site." XeUSA.com sells "excellent electronics."
Xe-USA.com and Xe-Worldwide.com are still available.
How to analyze a name like "Xe"? I'll state the obvious: it's enigmatic and not obviously pronounceable. And as my source, Namer X, noted, it's damn near impossible to find in an online search (99,900,000 results for "Xe" at last count). Of course, inscrutability and obscurity are desirable branding objectives when you're in the covert-ops biz.
Some comments from around the Web:
Xe? Maybe appropriate after all. X (ex-) is a has-been, and e is a failing grade. A has-been failure of a company, for sure. (ABC News)
I'm pretty Xe myself, at least that's what the ladies say. (NPR)
Xenon can be used as an anesthetic due to being able to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, and mercenary armies tend to penetrate and anesthetise where other armies cannot, generally spilling blood and brains in the process. 'Tis a fitting name for a merc army, I don't see how we shall forget such a clever moniker as Xe. (Wired blog)
Is that short for Na-Xe? (Huffington Post)
UPDATE, Feb. 14: The L.A. Times reports that a logo change is in the works: "The company is also replacing its bear paw logo with a sleeker black-and-white graphic based on letters that make up the company's new name." (Hat tip: MJF.)
UPDATE, Dec. 12, 2011: Another name change, this time to Academi.
* Except in the UK. (It's "zee," not "zed.")