Almost overnight, it seems, the world has fallen head over heels for Slack.
“I am basically in love with Slack,” declares About.me founder Tony Conrad in a testimonial on Slack’s home page. “Slack, a messaging tool designed for team collaboration, is the working digital world’s latest paramour,” writes Scott Rosenberg in an admiring article published earlier this month on Medium (“Shut Down Your Office. You Now Work in Slack”). “Slack is the new favourite tool of newsrooms” reads a headline in Digiday, which calls itself “the authority on digital media.” In April, Slack’s co-founders won a Crunchie—one of the technology awards bestowed each year by TechCrunch—for founder of the year. Slack is also the investment world’s BFF: launched less than two years ago, it has only about 750,000 daily users—more than two-thirds of whom pay nothing for the service—but is worth $2.8 billion, according to Business Insider.
Chart via Business Insider(May 19, 2015), which is shaky on its spelling of Pinterest.
The numbers and accolades are impressive. But how does that name—Slack—stack up?
Don’t read “How to Name a Baby” to learn how to name a baby. Read it for insights into historical baby-naming trends and to confirm your hunches (e.g., “the popular girl name Reagan is for Republicans”). Also: charts!
Given names are “one of the last social acceptable frontiers of class war.”Also: nominative determination, implicit egotism, and how the Internet has made baby naming more difficult. Part 1 of a four-part podcast series about names from Australian radio network ABC. The presenter, Tiger Webb, has an interesting name story himself. (Hat tip: Superlinguo.)
The not-so-secret jargon of doctors is full of acronyms: a flea—fucking little esoteric asshole—is an intern, an FLK is a “funny-looking kid,” and an “SFU 50 dose” is the amount of sedative it takes for 50 percent of patients to shut the fuck up.
Ever wonder what value-creating winners do all day? Here’s Business Town to enlighten you. It’s “an ongoing project attempting to explain our highly intangible, deeply disruptive, data-driven, venture-backed, gluten-free economic meritocracy to the uninitiated. With apologies to Richard Scarry.”
“The decision is made. The name won’t be changed.” – Tim Mahoney, head of marketing for Chevy, speaking to the Detroit Free Press about the Bolt electric vehicle, whose name is strikingly similar to that of the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid. In fact, a Spanish speaker would pronounce the two names identically. (Hat tip: Jonathon Owen.)
Stan Freberg, a man of myriad talents who was often called “the father of funny advertising,” died Tuesday in Santa Monica. He was 88.
Freberg was born in Pasadena and grew up in Los Angeles; he turned down scholarships to Stanford University and the University of Redlands in order to pursue a career in radio. He became a successful comedian and a voice actor in cartoons—his was the voice of the beaver in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp—but it’s as rule-breaking advertising copywriter that I choose to remember him.
According to the New York Times obituary, Freberg went into advertising “because he considered most commercials moronic.” In 1957, after the CBS Radio Network canceled “The Stan Freberg Show” after just 15 weeks, Freberg formed his own ad-production company, which he called Freberg Ltd. (but not very). His motto, according tothe Los Angeles Times obituary, was Ars gratia pecuniae: “Art for money’s sake.” He “set the standard for humor in advertising,” according to a tribute in Advertising Age: his work included campaigns for Chun King, Jeno’s Pizza, Sunsweet prunes (one of his prune ads starred Ray Bradbury, the science-fiction writer), Contadina tomato paste (“Who puts eight great tomatoes in that little bitty can? You know who. You know who. You know who”), and Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Freberg’s copy wasn’t just funny; it was subversive. He “used humor to declare war on postwar advertising,” writes the New York Times’s Douglas Martin: “Mr. Freberg even committed, eagerly, the ad industry’s greatest heresy: lampooning the deficiencies of a paying client’s own products.”
When he couldn’t get a paying client to underwrite his heresies, he went indie. His 1958 comedy single, “Green Chri$tma$” hardly seems dated today, nearly half a century later:
Deck the halls with advertising! Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la! ’Tis the time for merchandising! Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la! Profit never needs a reason! Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la! Get the money, it’s the season! Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
My latest post for Strong Language(“a sweary blog about swearing”) is about Sofa King: “a real brand, a parody brand, a tribute brand, a song title, the subject of a Saturday Night Live skit, and the punchline to a joke.” SNL may have popularized Sofa King, but there had already been a furniture store by that name in the UK for six years before the skit aired. (Tagline: “Our prices are Sofa King low!”) And the joke had been circulating online for at least a year before that.
“The tale of ‘scofflaw,’ born in Boston at a time when Prohibitionists were staging mock funerals of ‘John Barleycorn’ and fleets of Coast Guard rum-chasers patrolled Boston Harbor, shows that sometimes real words can actually be invented on demand. They just don’t always behave exactly the way their engineers hope they will.” (Boston Globe, via @ammonshea.) I wrote about “scofflaw” in a 2011 blog post. More on the language of Prohibition in this 2010 post.
[T]he project leader’s initial idea was straightforward: the Anti-Qassam, referring to the type of missiles most commonly fired by Hamas. When that was rejected as “problematic,” he and his wife came up with Golden Dome, an image that brings to mind the palaces of Kubla Khan or perhaps (closer to home) the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. That name was rejected as being too ostentatious, so under the pressure of time, gold was reduced to a lesser metal, and Iron Dome was born.
The leaves of Citrus hystrix are used in many South and Southeast Asian cuisines; they’re sometimes called by their Thai name, makrut, but in many English-speaking countries they’ve long been called kaffir lime.That’s changing thanks to a protest “against the racial and religious slur of ‘kaffir’,” writes Tiffany Do in SF Weekly(“Citrus-Based Racism Leads Market to Change Product Names”). “Kaffir,” which comes from an Arabic word meaning “unbeliever,” was appropriated by English colonizers in South Africa, where it was used as a slur and a term of abuse against blacks. “What’s most surprising in this whole controversy is that the issue hasn't been addressed – and remedied – before now,” writes SF Weekly’s Do. Most markets are switching to the neutral “lime leaves.”
Who decides what makes a word “real”? Anne Curzan, a language historian and member of the American Heritage Dictionary’s usage panel, explains why she finds language change “not worrisome but fun and fascinating.” (TEDxUofM talk; video and transcript.)
We say: meet (not ‘meet with’),consult (not ‘consult with’), talk to (not ‘talk with’), protest against a decision (not ‘protest a decision’), appeal against a verdict (not ‘appeal a verdict’).
And, n.b., the BBC does not punctuate the abbreviations i.e. or e.g.
In the early to mid-1960s, Mad magazine carried on a “glorious” and “fearless” anti-smoking campaign through parody ads that “closely resembled the real ones that ran on television and in magazines,” writes David Margolick in the New Yorker’s Culture Desk blog. The ads attacked tobacco companies, ad agencies, and smokers with equal-opportunity opprobrium. Mad has always been ad-free, and—unusual for the 1960s—its offices were “largely smoke free” as well: the magazine’s publisher, William Gaines, “was fanatically opposed to the habit,” writes Margolick.
It’s not every day that a name developer has the chance to name a radically new technology. Anthony Shore had such a chance when the makers of a “cinematic virtual reality” device hired him. Read about how Jaunt got its name.
“Machines don't need names, but we feel the need to name them,” writes Adrienne LaFrance in The Atlantic (“Why People Give Human Names to Machines”). The urge has long been with us, or at least some of us: a siege engine was named “Domina Gunilda” (“Lady Gunild”) in an Anglo-Norman document of 1330-1.
(My favorite submission comes from Erica Friedman, who once worked for an ad agency whose conference rooms were named Ideation, Creation, Dream, Coopetition [sic], and Resonate. “It was horrible and miserable and it still makes me shudder,” she writes. Erica and I are not related, but we are definitely soulmates.)
A mysterious blogger whom I know only as The Least Shrew—her Twitter bio identifies her as Kaylin in Akron, Ohio—has done me the great honor of turning a peculiar research project of mine into a flowchartthat she calls “How to Name Your Website.”
Of course, for strict accuracy, the label should be “How to Name Your Company or Product”—this is a lot bigger than websites. And until I told her about The Name Inspector’s Wall of Namifying—the project that inspired my own collections—The Least Shrew hadn’t been aware of it, so all those -ify names—Rockify, Subsify, Wingify, et al.—don’t get proper representation.
But those quibbles aside, it’s a brilliant infographic. I’m deeply flattered.