Name Awards Professional Commentary on Company Names, Product Brands and Business Names

Give A Man a Fish…

Eats for a day…

“…and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, and he eats forever.”

Most of us have heard this proverb, and, in its spirit, I thought I’d share some ideas on naming with our readers. None of the ideas below are remotely adequate to replace a full naming effort of the sort provided by Brighter Naming. However, paying attention to a few common-sense decision rules can speed your naming project along—if not by providing a brilliant new name, at least these can help weed out obvious clunkers.

…eats forever.

Marus’ Three Laws of Phonetic Naming

1. A name should be easy to pronounce. If you hear someone say the name, it should be easy for you to say it yourself, and have it sound the same.

2. A name should be easy to read. Several people should be able to see the written version of the name, and pronounce it the same way when they read it out loud.

3. A name should be easy to spell. If several people hear a name, they should ideally come up with the same spelling when each of them writes it down.

The first encounter with a name may come visually or aurally. Passing on information about that particular product may also be done aurally or visually—and it’s nice not to have variations in spelling or pronunciation creep in anywhere during the process of communication.

I came up with these three rules when I started to wonder why Athol, I, and others whom we had never met would come up with similar reactions to various brand names. My guess is that we’re all unconsciously applying the Three Laws cited above.

A few comments and examples:

Velveeta Mondelez, queen of the Uruguayan cinema

Aside from the sheer lunacy of abandoning a universally known and respected brand name, much of the negative reaction to the Kraft-Mondelez fiasco may stem from the shift from a simple name that does very well under all three Laws, to one that has real problems, especially with the latter two. Quick: is it mon-de-LEES, mon-de-LAYS, or mon-DELL-ez? If you hear a Kraft employee talking about mon-de-LAYS, is it spelled Mondelez? Or Mondelay’s? Or Mondellaise? Didn’t have that problem with “Kraft”, did you?

Huawei to go…NOT!

These laws are to a great degree culture-bound, and illustrate the problems of bringing new names across linguistic boundaries. (See Athol’s “Hello China – Please give us names we can pronounce,” and “Phonetics”.) Some brands can get “grandfathered”—they’ve been around so long that they’ve become part of our culture, and the original pronunciation issues are completely forgotten. Best example: do you use English or French rules of pronunciation when you say “Chevrolet”?

See the USA, in your…Chev-RAW-Lett?

For our next foray, we’ll apply the Laws (and some other criteria) to a variety of names and topics. In homage to James Burke’s great TV series Connections, we’ll see if we’re up to the challenge of an essay that links Yuengling beer, Hellman’s mayonnaise, Chinese wine labels, and Espiritu de Argentina Malbec.

Until then…gone fishin’.

–Greg Marus


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