April 30, 2006
Product Naming: The Pesky "W" of Wii
I 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".
In 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:
- 1UP.com collects the opinions of Ziff Davis staffers.
- JoeBlade argues that the name is both confusing and embarrassing.
- Venting Plasma says that Nintendo's explanation of the name is the sort of metaphor that just doesn't work.
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