Ready for an antidote to Bad Brand Names Week? This month's Linkfest stays on the sunny side of the street.
Wolfram Alpha may be the new kid on the search-engine block, but don't count Google out just yet. A nifty new search option, Wonder Wheel, presents results as a constellation (or mind map); each term in the constellation is clickable, yielding a new constellation. Check out the Wonder Wheel for "wisdom." (Via Joho the Blog.)
Bay Area journalist and blogger Tracey Taylor (of Home Girl and On the Block) forwarded two articles about names, brands, and trademarks. The first is Phil Patton's eulogy for animal-themed car names (Mustang and Impala are the last remnants of the herd). It's full of lore: Did you know that the Ford Taurus was named for the astrological sign of a Ford executive's wife? Or that before World War II, the Jaguar was known as the Swallow Sidecar?
The second article, "Naming a Company: Many Difficulties in Selecting a Name That Can Be Used in the Various States" (PDF), is nearly century-old proof that name development has long been a challenge. Published in 1912, it takes fastidious pains to explain to readers what must have once been a novel predicament. "When the number of States is considered," the reporter cautions, "it is at once apparent that much searching of records is necessary before a name can be adopted. It would have been unfortunate, for instance, if the organizers of the Tobacco Products Corporation had incorporated under that name without preliminary investigation, and had found that there were corporations of the same name in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Massachusetts..." Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
I was delighted to discover (via Twitter) the Unshelved blog, which features the only daily comic strip set in a public library. That's good news right there; even better, the May 17 strip is about my pal Charlie Haas's wonderful new novel, The Enthusiast.
Tributes to and indictments of Strunk & White's The Elements of Style have abounded in this, the book's 50th-anniversary year. Geoffrey Nunberg wrote two of the best pieces: a defense of the passive voice (originally read on NPR's "Fresh Air") and, in Language Log, a virtuoso verse (in perfectly scanning heroic couplets!) that summons the shade of Alexander Pope.
I'm glad to see someone else shares my fascination with brand names beginning with "Mister." Here's Nama Sutra with a new-to-me crop that includes Mister Tapioca, Mr. Zipper, and the gender-bending Mister Lady.
Copyeditor extraordinaire John McIntyre recommends 10 blogs to improve your mastery of language and editing, including a few that were new to me. And Mighty Red Pen suggests 10 blogs word nerds will love, including (ahem) the one you're reading now.
Finally, just for the heck of it: How many folksingers does it take to change a light bulb? (Hat tip: Walter Olson.)
Thanks for the Unshelved reminder -- I seem to have a proliferation of librarian friends, and they all love it.
Posted by: tanita | May 19, 2009 at 12:05 PM
Mister Mister for a "Misting and Fogging System" is quite wonderful.
Posted by: Jon Carroll | May 20, 2009 at 10:48 AM
Great post. (I just discovered your blog.)
I was wondering what you thought of Wolfram Alpha as a name. It's just so weird it might work. No matter how successful it is, I don't think it will take off to the point where people are "wolframing" their name. :)
Posted by: Mark Simmons | May 20, 2009 at 11:37 AM