The last roundup for 2011, that is.
Webctor may be the only purportedly English word I’ve ever encountered that contains the consonant sequence B-C-T. That’s because that particular sequence is unpronounceable. Which makes word-of-mouth advertising, or even answering the telephone, rather challenging.
In creating this breathtakingly bad name, someone—or someone’s automated name generator—evidently went no further than “web + doctor.” A similarly shaky command of English is evidenced in the writing. (“WebCTOR.com delivers valuable medical content the needy every day.”) And, in fact, WebCTOR was launched in Poland sometime in 2011.
Any resemblance of the WebCTOR name and logo to an older and better-known medical website is probably entirely intentional.
Via Amy Reynaldo, who tipped me off to A Little Pregnant’s tweets about WebCTOR (sample).
You own a flower shop/restaurant/gift “shoppe” in “a sprawling turn-of-the-century home” in Pittsburgh, PA. Naturally, you name your business after a macabre, bestselling 1979 novel (and 1987 movie) about abandoned children and adolescent incest. Welcome to Flowers in the Attic!
“The horror begins…”
Hat tip: Coneslayer.
Rochelle Kopp, who tweets as JapanIntercult, sent me this ad (originally tweeted by Hiroko Tabuchi) for a new brand of milk tea from Kirin, the huge Japanese beverage company.
Let’s pause to admire that gorgeous “g” in the logo. And then let’s collectively drop our jaws at the name. Pungency may sound dandy in Japanese (I honestly have no idea), but its associations in English are less than appetizing. Pungent is a synonym for “biting,” “penetrating,” or “caustic”; its Latin root means “to sting.” Burning rubber is pungent. Milk tea should not be pungent. Indeed, the blogger at Transmissions from Tokyo found the opposite to be the case:
Ironically, the drink is more or less the same as Royal Milk Tea. It's not strong tasting or strong smelling at all. Not in the least! You'd think that someone there at the company would have thought to argue against naming a beverage Pungency for the same reasons I'm mentioning now. Guess not.
The language barrier is no excuse for Flubit, unless it’s that old separated-by-a-common-language barrier.
FlubIt is a London-based startup that finds discounts “on everything you buy.” The company’s founder apparently thinks “flub” is an invented word, when in fact—sorry to be the bearer of bad news—it’s a synonym for “botch” or “bungle.” Yes, the OED says it’s a US colloquialism, but it’s been around since 1924, for crying out loud. Surely it’s crossed the pond a few times.
But it seems never to have reached the ears of founder Bertie Stephens, who boasted to The Next Web about what a brilliant name he’d picked:
“[T]he name flubit preceded the actual business idea by a couple of years or so,” Stephens said, “and it just stuck with me until I eventually had the right product for it. So rather than putting a name to a product, we put a product to the name. … It was short, people would remember it, and it was a verb which, in my eyes, is hugely important. This meant I could run with the tagline ‘before you buy it, Flubit.’”
And then he said, still on the record:
“Also, it doesn’t have a pre-conceived meaning”, added Stephens. “So we can make it mean what we like – some find it silly, others cool.”
No preconceived meaning for someone who hasn’t consulted a dictionary, that is to say. FlubIt can go stand in the corner with Flubby, the badly named (but beautiful) shoe from Aquatalia. And, Mr. Stephens, the next time your entrepreneurial brain tells you to choose a name because it’s short and “a verb,” please seek professional advice.
Hat tip: Leslie Forman.
Read all of my Bad Names posts, if you have the stomach for them. Here’s to better names in 2012!
First thoughts that came to me with Flubit was the pronunciation of 'flu' -- short for 'influenza'? -- and then 'Flubber', the ectoplasm-type play material (later the name of a film).
Posted by: John Russell | December 30, 2011 at 02:06 AM
As a very poor third-language speaker of Japanese, I would say that Pungency (pan-gen-shii)just sounds nice in Japanese - those two syllabic 'n's and the long 'i' give it a rather relaxed sound.
As for Flubit, as a native British English speaker I would have thought 'flub' and its negative connotations were well known.
Posted by: James | December 30, 2011 at 05:32 AM
@John: Flubber was also on my mind when I wrote the original post on this subject, about a shoe style called Flubby: http://nancyfriedman.typepad.com/away_with_words/2011/02/oddly-named-shoes-for-spring-2011.html
Posted by: Nancy Friedman | December 30, 2011 at 08:04 AM
pungency is subtly and delicately named compared to the soft drink i still remember from japan in the 1980s: Pocari Sweat! i wonder if it's still around...
Posted by: lily | December 31, 2011 at 02:12 AM
Hey, Happy New Year, and nice to meet you and your b log!
Posted by: heydave | December 31, 2011 at 05:57 AM
@James I agree that so much of the success in naming with English words in Japan is to do with the sound of the word and the shape of the letters. It doesn't draw any connotations for me to other concepts in Japanese, but it does sound pleasant.
And since @lilly brought up Pocari Sweat, a post on Japanese milky beverages would not be complete without mention of Calpis (a lovely portmanteau of calcium and the Sanskrit for butter flavor sarpis)! They changed the name to Calpico in post English-speaking countries, but I still think of it as Calpis (pronounced Ka(ru)-pii(soo) which ends up sounding a bit like cow piss).
Another reason I'd never drink Calpis? It's owned by Ajinomoto - makers of MSG. *shudder*
Posted by: Shawna | January 04, 2012 at 04:42 PM