My latest column for the Visual Thesaurus was inspired by a tweet from trademark lawyer Alexandra J. Roberts.
“we need a trademark for our new skincare brand”— alexandra j. roberts (@lexlanham) January 3, 2021
“what if we take a basic generic/descriptive term & remove all the vowels?”
“ooh like an unpronounceable secret code?! DO IT.” pic.twitter.com/o6TJ0AqaIz
DRMTLGY was new to me, but I’ve been tracking the no-vowels branding trend for quite a while. (See my Pinterest board We Don’t Need No STNKN VWLS. And see my posts about BHLDN and BNJMN.) I had fun researching and writing about all the ways we dispense with written vowels in English and in some other languages, notably Arabic and Hebrew.
Full access to the column is restricted to subscribers; here’s an xcrpt:
Shorthand systems, which have been used since ancient Greece for notetaking, have frequently relied on vowel-dropping. Some, such as the Pitman and Gregg systems, use squiggles and lines, but one modern system, Speedwriting, which was developed in the 1920s by shorthand Emma B. Dearborn, uses compressed versions of real words. The compression is often achieved by dropping vowels.
“bkm a steno & gt a gd jb & hi pa”: A Speedwriting ad from the 1970s
More recently, internet conventions rather than the desire for a gd jb have driven the vowel-less trend. Early SMS (short message service) technologies, like telegrams, charged by the word, so texters had to be creative—and brief. “Textese,” like telegraphese, often omits vowels: dctnry, kybrd, nvm (dictionary, keyboard, never mind). These compressions persisted in informal written English even after early cost and message-length restrictions were relaxed.
P.S. Cngrtltns to Prsdnt Bdn and VP Hrrs!