Here’s a business name that takes a big semantic risk. Does it succeed? You decide.
The owners explain the origin of “Sketch” on their FAQ page:
How did you come up with the name Sketch? In the same way our ice cream is made with the purest ingredients, similarly a sketch is the purest form of ideas.
OK, so they didn’t hire a professional writer. What’s evident, though, is that they define sketch the old-fashioned way: a drawing. The problem? There’s a competing, slangy, adjectival sense of sketch and sketchy: “unsafe,” “creepy,” “iffy,” “of dubious character.” And that connotation is exactly what a food-service establishment should strive to avoid.
I wrote last year about the dual meanings of sketch and sketchy here on the blog and, in more extended form, in my column for the Visual Thesaurus. (The paywall should be down now.) The “unsafe” sense has been in circulation, especially among teens and young adults, since at least 2008, when linguist Connie Eble documented it among students at North Carolina University the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It is sometimes said to have originated among methampetamine users, for whom “sketch” has been slang for “meth” for at least 20 years. However, Ben Zimmer has traced the “unsavory” meaning of “sketch” back even further, to as early as 1971.
As long as I’m quibbling, I challenge Sketch’s assertion that “a sketch is the purest form of ideas.” Rather, it’s the roughest form of an idea—hasty, incomplete, and lacking in details. That’s not a positive association for a pricey ice-cream parlor, either.
I do give Sketch credit for a cute, childlike wordmark, which I’d reproduce here if it weren’t rendered in such faint gray type as to be practically indistinguishable from the website’s white background. In fact, the entire site is a pain to read. Please fix that, Sketch! And if you decide to refine your name into something less shady and unfinished, give me a call.