I swear to tell the truth: This is the actual name and bona fide logo of a real legal-services business.
Where to begin with Shpoonkle? Well, there’s this description of the logo as registered in the trademark filing:
At the center of the word, there are two O’s of which the left “O” is larger than the right “O” with two dots in them to give the effect of crossed eyes.
There have been a lot of crossed eyes in the legal community since Shpoonkle—an auction site that allows clients to bid for lawyers’ services—launched last month. “The name is absolutely awful. The concept far worse,” wrote Scott Greenfield, who blogs at Simple Justice, a New York criminal defense blog:
Any lawyer who signs up for this service should be immediately disbarred, then tarred and feathered, then publicly humiliated. It doesn’t matter how awful a lawyer you are, how pathetic your business, how grossly incapable you may be in getting any client to retain you. Those are all good reasons to apply for the assistant manager’s position at Dairy Queen. This is worse.
Thank you, counselor! Me, I’ll leave the legal judgments to the lawyers and stick to what I know. Which is this: “Shpoonkle” is a silly, ineffective name. It looks and sounds like a fad toy (Slinky meets Foozle?) or one of those new dog breeds (schipperke-schnauzer-poodle?). The double-O in the middle and -le at the end suggest a pale and passé imitation of “Google”: dumb coined -oo- names like Thoof were all the rage in 2007 and now sound contrived and dated. (Thoof—the business and the name—bit the dust in 2008.)
The list of infractions goes beyond the name. The logo would be amateurish for a babysitting business; it’s cringeworthy for an endeavor built on consumer trust and professional ethics. The website inspires even more skepticism with its poorly considered stock photos, cheesy music, and cheesier video. (Video highlights: US Constitution; Statue of Liberty with fireworks; “It’s a win-win situation!”) The generic-sounding voiceover actor sounds embarrassed to be intoning, “Come to Shpoonkle dot com!” As well he should be.
Shpoonkle isn’t the first legal-auction website in history. SharkTank.com launched in 2000 with a similar premise; Business Week said the company was “indelicately named” and quoted anonymous lawyers who called the business “puerile,” “demeaning,” and “reprehensible.” (The company no longer exists.)
At least you knew where the SharkTank name came from. It wasn’t flattering to lawyers, but it was meaningful, evocative, and memorable. Shpoonkle, on the other hand, looks like it was chosen simply because the URL was available. (Imagine that!) It sounds like a mortifying childhood nickname, a mock-German word for “spoon,” or the missing link in the Yiddish continuum of schlemiel-schlimazel-schmendrick-schmo. (Big Legal Brain, a satirical legal blog, called Shpoonkle “the new Yiddish-language lawyer matching and bidding service” and a couple of weeks later announced the publication of its first ebook, Shpoonkle for Dummies.)
From the evidence, Shpoonkle’s founder, Robert G. Niznik, is no dummy. Just 21, he’s already finishing his studies at New York Law School. He certainly has supportive parents—they’re footing the Shpoonkle bill—and he’s been able to get a lot of free ink: even the Wall Street Journal covered the launch.
But his name choice is dumb, and Niznik isn’t doing himself any favors by acting huffy when it’s criticized. On the Shpoonkle blog, Niznik offers a very defensive Refudiate Defense. Here’s his entire “What’s in a Name?”* post, all spelling, capitalization, and punctuation verbatim.
Some people don’t like change, others don’t like what they don’t understand or better yet don’t want to understand. For all those critics of the name Shpoonkle a “Neologism” is a newly coined term, word or phrase, that may be in the process of entering common use, but has not yet been accepted into mainstream language. Neologisms are often directly attributable to a specific person, publication, period, or event.” Well, get ready, Shpoonkle is here and we are ready for the mainstream. Kleenex, Blog, Xerox, and yes even Internet were silly names people mocked and thought were ridiculous too. Now these words are part of our every day language.
Why is Shpoonkle demeaning to Lawyers? I guess the same way people thought professionals using the Internet and blogging was absurd and didn’t have merit? Shpoonkle is a service to help people. It’s free and it offers an alternate way for clients to find professional services they really need. Somehow our society equates the value of a service solely on how much money someone else can charge for it? Time’s are tough and people are struggling. Clients and Attorneys alike, why not offer another way of doing things?
I think its time for a change don’t you?
Well, it’s certainly time for a proofreader. Or a ghostwriter. And some professional naming services would be advisable, too.
From the 2003 TV remake of The Music Man.
UPDATES: In a comment, Q. Pheevr points out the similarity between the Shpoonkle and Google logos. And commenter Stan Carey links to another musical reference: “Shpadoinkle,” from Cannibal: The Musical, the 1993 movie written and directed by South Park’s Trey Parker.
* If you’re keeping score, that’s the 3,274th “What’s in a Name?” headline documented to date.