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September 14, 2005

If a Centipede Has a Hundred Feet, Does a Centigon Have a Hundred Knees?

Armor Holdings has just rebranded its mobile security division, grouping several subsidiaries under the company name Centigon.

Centigon,” a name coined by Armor's naming company, is certainly easier to say and more memorable than “Trasco GmbH, Labbe, S.A., and O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt Armoring Co.” But is it the right name for this business?

Centigon rhymes with “Pentagon,” which evokes defense and security—appropriate to the business Armor Holdings is in.

Given that Centigon manufactures armored vehicles, the “-gon” also suggests an origin in “wagon.” So far, so good.

But does the name live up to its billing? According to the naming agency's recent press release, the name “borrows from the word ‘sentry,’ suggesting protection, fortification and strength, and the word ‘paragon,’ indicating a model of excellence.”

The concern I have is that “Centigon” does not call to mind either sentries or paragons. The English word “sentry” actually comes to us via French from the Latin “sentire,” meaning to hear or perceive; the Romans used “custos” or “vigil” to mean “sentry.” Everyone who has ever held a penny knows that the “cent-” root means “one hundred.” If the rebranding objective was to have people think of "sentries," why not spell the new company name with an “S”?

The “-gon” is equally problematic. The “-gon” in “paragon” is actually the Italian form of the Greek word “akone,” meaning “whetstone,” but I doubt Centigon’s customer will know or even guess that. The Greek words from which most English words get their “-gon” roots or endings are “agon,” meaning “contest” (as in “antagonist”), and “gonu,” meaning “knee” or “angle.”

A hundred-angled figure would actually be a hekatogon, but only a Greek speaker or a mathematician would know that.

Everyone encounters pentagons and hexagons in junior-high math classes, but paragons are rarer creatures. Centigon’s customers are unlikely to be expecting one.

Posted by Diane Prange at September 14, 2005 8:00 AM
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