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September 20, 2005

Product Naming: CN U SPEK LEET?

Researchers at Harvard call it . Computer boffins just call it , (or "1337" in leet) a phonetic spelling of the word "elite" used by early hackers to bypass automatic text parsers.

RAZR cellphoneLeet is the Internet generation's streamlined version of Pig Latin: a neat, systematic communication tool that, as one linguist has put it, improves "the efficiency of natural language" by literally getting down on paper, or computer/cell phone screen, what we say.

green sinkLeet has, of course, found its way into brand naming, whether in the form of Motorola's RAZR slim cell phone, Motorola's ROKR handset with iTunes, Pfizer's VFEND antifungal immune booster, the BRX hair care line, the TH RML hair appliance, or the new lighting design brand name GNR8 (that is, "generate").

ROKR cellphoneAs far afield as South Africa, leet has found its newest dialect with the recent introduction of super fashion brand Loxion Kulca (African leet for Location, or township, Culture) and Internet millionaire Mark Shuttleworth's (Hip to be Square) educational foundation.

VfendBack in the USA leet has made its way into entertainment with the 1995 Brad Pitt thriller Se7en and the Al Pacino comedy S1m0ne not to mention the pivotal proto-leet 1981 Journey album ESC4P3.

Sears used the product name for its new Kenmore clothes-washer and dryer in late 2004. Super band Linkin Park, a group of leet aficionados, used the format for all the song titles on their 2001 album . These latter product names use another abbreviated language that substitutes numbers over letters called B1ff, leet's predecessor, that hardcore leet geeks try to disassociate themselves from.

Leet is especially useful in text messaging and in any situation where language compression is needed. The simplicity in which leet is used is infuriating to language purists but it does allow for new frontiers in product naming, where 95% of the words in the dictionary have been trademarked.

It also allows new brands to gain access to Internet domains that might otherwise be unavailable. Finally, it allows a brand to gain instant appeal to the hundreds of millions of people around the United States who use the language, knowingly or unknowingly, while sending the over one billion text messages yearly from cell phones.

Add into this the rampant use of leet in message boards, chatrooms, email, online gaming and instant messaging, it looks like leet is here to stay and those of us in the product naming biz better PA A10SHN.

Posted by William Lozito at September 20, 2005 8:00 AM
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