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April 30, 2006

Product Naming: The Pesky "W" of Wii

Wii LogoI am convinced that Nintendo’s claim that "Wii" is a brand name everyone in the world can pronounce is more optimistic than accurate.

Not only do we have to deal with the Great Vowel Shift of English, which makes it the only European language which pronounces a long "i" to rhyme with "tie" rather than "tea," but then there’s that pesky "w".

Wii controllerIn our April 28th Wiii brand naming post we mentioned the Welsh use of "w" as a vowel, but what about the way German and other Germanic languages pronouce "w" like the English "v"?

Though as a name, "V" might be a great improvement on "Wii." Vii haff vays of making you buy this game console.

Then there are languages like Italian and Greek which have no "w" at all, meaning that "Wii" as a sound doesn’t naturally exist for them, much less have any meaning.

And Modern Greek uses an "ou" to simulate a "w" when writing out names like "Washington," which comes out "Ouassington."

Which brings me to the point that any proper name should be pronounced the same way in any language — that’s what distinguishes it from ordinary nouns, which just get translated.

So, in a sense, Nintendo could make the same claim about any product name or brand name, the way any of us could make it about our own names. For instance, my colleague’s name, William Lozito.

Here are some other blogs that have been posting about Wii:

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Posted by Diane Prange at April 30, 2006 7:14 PM
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The first thing that came to my mind when I read that Nintendo is naming their new system "Wii" was Michelle... as in Michelle Wi, the teenage golfing guru. Maybe she'll be Nintendo's spokesperson!

Interesting analysis on Wii. I agree that it's not necessarily easy to pronounce when you first see it.

But if you hear it once, you'll remember it immediately and never forget it or the pronunciation.

This, I'm afraid, can't be said for your company name, "Strategic Name Development," which for a naming company, has to be the most difficult to pronounce, least memorable and least inspiring creation EVER. (Sorry, just couldn't resist:)

Wii is already all over the place, just with a short little 30 second teaser. Obviously it's a good name, because your all talking about it. It's just different. It defies convention. In fact, it slaps it in the face and says "Don't get up!" All from three simple letters and a tiny little sound!

Just curious, has any other name gotten so much attention (whether good or bad) in the first week of it's release?

I doubt it.


English the only European language with long "i"? For example Finnish uses a lot of long "i"'s...

I'm a Greek citizen. And in Greece we can pronounce the word Wii despite what you say.

I'm Dutch and I can tell you that German and other Germanic languages (e.g. Dutch) pronouce "w" exactly like the English "w", and that we also use a long "i".

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