Cambridge Analytica, the “embattled political consulting firm” that was involved in the Facebook data-harvesting scandal, has filed for bankruptcy and closed its U.S. offices, according to reports yesterday in the New York Times and other media outlets. Out of the ashes has risen something called Emerdata, “a mysterious British company” (per Mother Jones) whose board includes two daughters of Robert Mercer, “the enigmatic hedge-fund investor and right-wing power broker” (MJ again), as well as three Britons who had held senior roles at Cambridge Analytica. “The story, in other words,” writes MJ’s Andy Kroll, “is far from over.”
This isn’t the Emerdata you’re looking for.
What kind of name is Emerdata? A bad one, and not only because the first thing Google asks you when you search for the name is “Do you mean Enerdata?” (an energy-data company), and the second image that appears in an image search is for EmerData (“Solutions for Emergency and Fire Safety Planning”).
Nope, not this one, either.
The data part of Emerdata is easy enough to decode. I’m guessing the Emer part was clipped from emerge or emerging, although I suppose it could come from emergency or emeritus. Either way, what we have here is an example of what the Name Inspector, Christopher Johnson, called awkwordplay: a word that defies pronunciation because of a mismatch in syllable emphasis.
The business-filing form for Emerdata Limited. Via Medium. The company was incorporated in London on August 11, 2017.
In emerge or emergency, the stress is on the second syllable; in data, the stress is on the first syllable. But when we encounter a novel form like Emer, we default to a parallel pattern: We assume it’s stressed on the first syllable like ever or Esther. But when we do that, we lose the “emerge” sense of the root word; now we have something that suggests, say, emirates (probably the wrong association) or emerald (although that association requires a big leap of the imagination). (Or maybe, if we speak some French, we jump immediately to emmerder, a verb that can mean anything from the mild piss [someone] off to the sweary fuck [you]. And note the merde therein.) We’re also left in the dark about whether the first e of Emer is meant to be long, as in emerge, or short, as in emblem.
Robert and Rebekah Mercer. Via Town and Country.
And we haven’t even gotten into whether data is supposed to be pronounced day-ta or datta.
Whether or not the Mercer clan can actually claim billionaire status – the evidence is unclear – they and their co-directors certainly have enough money and clout to hire experienced, professional name developers who could give them a name that doesn’t lead to confusion, stammering, and embarrassment.
On the other hand, given their history, maybe obfuscation is exactly what they’re aiming for.
Update from Italian-English translator Licia Corbolante, who blogged in Italian about the name a couple of days ago:
in Italian #emerdata looks like "è [una] merdata" and it can't be unseen. It roughtly translates as a very productive act of defecation, or as something covered in shit, and figuratively also as something despicable— Licia Corbolante (@terminologia) May 3, 2018