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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.

loreal_coke.gifNeither 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.

loreal_coke_2.gifThe 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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Posted by Diane Prange at March 20, 2007 12:27 PM
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That's a great point about the name. Although I'm a fan of parasites but that's because I'm a biologist at heart.

It will fail, but I don't think the name is the reason it will fail. The name isn't as bad as it sounds. Actually, the name does a pretty good job of making it sound fashionable. Aything that has a trace of French in it does. I think it's the Coca-cola/L'Oreal connection that freaks me out.

Oh, I agree the name has class, but I'd much rather it was a French sounding word that English speakers wouldn't have to think about - something like L'Pree, which I've read somewhere means "the prize". Being too French, or too any culture-oriented monicker for that matter, will be considered pretentious by many populating the market for this type of product.

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