July, 2013

What’s in a name? Choosing the right name for your business

Last week most of the papers and the TV were awash with speculation over baby names. That no doubt will turn into weeks of stories about the origin of names, the meaning of names, in fact anything to do with names.

Well, names are important. A good one can set you up for life, and according to an article in The Week from March 2012  they can even affect our personalities and the choices we make. Apparently, this belief goes back to the Romans who had a phrase – nomen est omen, or ‘name is destiny.’ Just look at how many actors and performers have changed their given names for something a tad more exotic or memorable.

It’s the same with businesses too. Naming your fledging company is just as important as naming your baby – you’re going to have to live with it for a long time. So you want it to be memorable for the right reasons, and for it to have positive connotations. You need to spend time on it and do your research. But where do you start?

Bronwyn Durand of JupiterJasper is a marketing mentor for small businesses, and as The Brand Whisperer, she  has a special interest in using what makes a business differentto develop its commercial identity. Here’s what Bronwyn has to share on naming a business…

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Just an observ-ation

The other day I ordered something online and immediately received an email from the delivery company. The email contained a link to a website where I was able to track my parcel’s progress, change the delivery day and time, or ask for it to be left with a neighbour. Very impressive.

I clicked through to a very clear, easy to read table charting my parcel’s status: 1) Collected. 2) At Sortation Facility…  woah – hold on a second. Sortation Facility? It had me giggling and hooting with derision in equal measure. Sortation Facility. Purleeeese.

What’s wrong with sorting office all of a sudden? Does using a made up word make it more important? Do people who work in ‘sortation facilities’ (sortation facilitators?) feel more valued than their counterparts in mere sorting offices?  I doubt it.

The suffix ‘ation’ seems to have attached itself to other words as well in a rather mistletoe-like, parasitic sort of way (but without mistletoe’s prettiness or usefulness).

‘Expiration date’ is another mind-boggler. Why the need for the suffix? Why not good old-fashioned ‘expiry’?

Don’t get me wrong – I like new words. But only if they express or describe something better than the original word, or if they represent something new.

I like the way ‘random’ became used to describe something that was a little odd or unexpected. And I particularly love ‘earworm’. It perfectly describes that irritatingly catchy tune that rattles around in your head all day until something else equally irritating and catchy replaces it. (And why is it always just one line? Over and over and over.)

I digress. Back to ‘ation’. Adding this suffix seems to be adding for adding’s sake. It’s not useful. It doesn’t give clarity. It doesn’t tell us something we didn’t know about the thing it’s representing, so why do it? It just makes a word five letters too long.

Sortation facility aside, the service was great. I even got an email giving me the name of the driver… or should that be deliveration facilitator?








The new language of tennis

Aside from John McEnroe’s relentless mispronunciation of players’ names (Jokeavitch, del Porcho) another element seems to have crept into the language of tennis this Wimbledon. War terminology.

I know it’s been there for a while in lots of sports but somehow it seems more prevalent at this year’s Championships. This player uses his big serve as ‘ammunition’. Another uses her forehand as a ‘weapon of choice’. I even heard one commentator describe Steffi Graff’s serve as a ‘weapon of mass destruction’.

Other words of war that have been banded around the commentary box this week include ‘firepower’ and ‘big guns’ – used to describe a big serve.

Maybe I’m being oversensitive but I don’t like it. Neither war terminology in business either – I particularly loathe ‘mission critical’.

The language of war has become very sanitised over the years, disguising to a large extent what’s really going on. Pretty much like a lot of business-speak – probably why it’s attractive.

War is unpleasant: people get killed and injured. Sport is entertainment, and while it gets tough at times, and players do get injured, it’s rarely life threatening. Same with business.

Business people in particular seem to think they need to use what they imagine are ‘dynamic’ or ‘strong’ words to give themselves credibility. Many end up sounding like incoherent idiots.

At a time when service men and women are in genuinely dangerous situations, receiving horrific injuries, some losing their lives, using the language of war in sport and business seems wrong. It devalues the true meaning of these words so they no longer have the impact they should. We no longer think about the horrors they really describe.

To quote Boris Becker after he lost in the second round at the 1987 Wimbledon Championships, “Of course I am disappointed, but I didn’t lose a war. There is no one dead. It was just a tennis match.”



Hello. I'm Elaine, I'm a copywriter and this is my blog.

It's mostly about words and writing - things that inspire me, entertain me, and make me smile. Sometimes it's about things that horrify me so much I want to scream and shout!

I hope you enjoy it and find it useful. And speaking of useful - scroll down and take a look at the Oxford Dictionaries tool.

Click here to find out a bit more about me.

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