March 20, 2007
Linguistics and Product Naming: In the Dark about Lumaé?
I think the idea of combining Coca-Cola and L’Oréal is a little frightening.
Neither drinking Feria #93 nor washing my hair with Diet Coke has much appeal. Nevertheless, “drinkable skin care” is the latest thing in nutraceuticals, and Coca-cola has been producing “Love Body” in Japan for a while, and more recently launched “Enviga” in the U.S.
Now it’s Lumaé, a beverage based on anti-oxidant-rich green tea.
I’m in no position to comment on the effectiveness of the product, which won’t be released until 2008. It’s the name that worries me. “Lumaé” obviously comes from Latin lumen, meaning “lamp,” the root word of “illuminate.” It’s a good root on which to base a product name meant to give your skin a healthy glow.
The problem is one of pronunciation. Is the name two syllables or three? The acute accent in French is used to show that you pronounce a vowel separately, e.g. “Loh-ray-ahl” and not “Loh-reel.” That would suggest that “Lumaé” is pronounced “Loo-mah-ehh” or “Loo-mah-ee” rather than “Loom-eye” (which would be the Latin pronunciation).
English has little tolerance for hiatus, the separate pronunciation of two vowels with no consonant between them, and that means English speakers will have a hard time pronouncing “Lumaé” correctly if it’s meant to be a three-syllable name. And if it’s not meant to be a three-syllable name, what’s with the accent aigu?
A final note of warning to Coca-Cola and L’Oréal: the unicauda lumae is a parasite residing in the livers of Iraqi barbel fish.
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