I haven’t recommended a book in a while, so this month I’m recommending two, both of them new, both of them about language. (And each one blurbed by the author of the other one, which must be a coincidence, right?)
It’s been quite a year, so far, for novel acronyms and initialisms: NIL, NFT, XBE, TFG. (And let’s not forget LFG, from late 2019, which is now the title of a documentary, released in June 2021, about the US women’s national soccer team.)
Now we have the next BFD of acronyms: SPAC. It rhymes with crack and it stands for “special purpose acquisition company.”
The Guardians of Traffic statues have flanked both sides of the Hope Memorial Bridge since 1932. Each of the four-winged Art Deco figures sports winged helmets and crowns, and each statue holds a different vehicle to signify "the spirit of progress in transportation," per bridge engineer Wilbur Watson. Each guardian stands 43 feet tall, and they remain the only public Art Deco monuments in Cleveland.
On Quora, the question-and-answer crowdsourcing site, I frequently get A2As—that’s short for Ask to Answer—from people hoping to score a free business name. I wrote for Medium about why I no longer answer those requests.
Tomorrow, July 20, has been deemed National Lollipop Day, probably by the confectionery-industrial complex. No one seems to know when this faux-liday first appeared on calendars, which is fitting, because no one is quite sure where the word lollipop comes from, either, or whether it’s spelled with an I or a Y.
See’s Candies, which celebrates its centenary this year, has it both ways: lollypop in promotions for its “sweet-stakes,” lollipop in the sweet-stakes URL.
Plus signs have become ubiquitous in branding: You see them in the names of streaming services (ESPN+, BET+, Paramount+, et al.) retail and restaurant names (Nic+Zoe, Flour+Water, et al.), and even NASA’s Venus probe (DAVINCI+). For my latest Visual Thesaurus column, “What Do Plus Signs Add?”, I look at the rise of the plus sign from its origins as a compression of Latin et (“and”) to its use in telecommunications and computer programming and as shorthand for “larger sizes.”
Access is limited to subscribers for three months; here’s an excerpt. (And keep reading for some blog bonuses!)
There’s lower-case nil, a contraction of Latin nihil, which means “nothing,” especially in British and Commonwealth sports scores and doctor’s orders (“nil by mouth,” also the title of a 1987 British film directed by Gary Oldman).
Then there’s the acronym NIL, which in the world of U.S. collegiate athletics stands for “name, image, likeness.” And that NIL is a very big something.
Until recently, college athletes in the U.S. were prohibited by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) from cashing in on their names, images, and likenesses—their NIL. On July 1, 2021, new laws went into effect in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and New Mexico that allow athletes at those states’ universities to “monetize their individual rights,” as a June 15 story in Sports Business Journal put it.
Years ago, when “having your colors done” was trendy, I thought there might be a story in it, so in the interest of research I sought out a color consultant and handed over my money. There were a lot of charlatans and opportunists in this field, but I lucked out: The color analyst I found was John Kitchener, who had an art-history background and an unerring eye. (He’s still in business, but has relocated from the Bay Area to the Atlanta area.)
For what I remember as a not-inconsequential (but worth it) fee, John gave me palette of fabric swatches that suited my eye and skin colors. He also gave me something equally valuable: a lesson in what he calls “style essences” and what other image consultants sometimes call “style personalities” or “style profiles.”
Color Me Beautiful (1981), an early and influential guidebook. Not John Kitchener’s system.
Knowing my style essence—which shapes and textures harmonize with my overall look, which styles to avoid—greatly simplified my wardrobe choices and gave me an objective assessment that my mirror never quite delivered. (After the consultation, it dawned on me that even when I was 4 years old I looked and felt terrible in “youthful” clothes.)
Style essences continue to interest me, and when I read a post on the subject by style blogger Susan of Une Femme d’un Certain Age, I realized that there was a lot of overlap between the fashion-y side of style profiling and the brand-y side that I do. When you’re building a brand—starting with the name and tagline—you first need to identify your brand’s personality: its style essence. As with personal style, brand style is often a blend of two or more traits: dramatic, classic, romantic, nerdy (that’s my term; style consultants don’t use it!), playful, and so on.
Want to know more about how brand personality can influence your choice of a brand name? Read my new story on Medium, and let me know in a comment about your own style-personality and brand-naming experiences.
It’s not often that I have a chance to write about the intersection of naming and swimming, two of my primary interests. But in the last seven days I’ve seen two swim-related names that caught my eye, for better and for worse.
I remember reading about Swimply—“a marketplace that connects owners of underutilized swimming pools with people seeking to gather, swim and escape locally”—not long after the company launched in June 2018. “That’s a really bad name,” I thought back then. “But hey—the founder is only 20 years old. Of course he’ll change it!” Right? Wrong.
It’s still Swimply—a portmanteau* of swim and simply—and it’s still bad.