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April 26, 2007

What Company Name or Product Name is the Name of the Year?

ANS-logo.gifAmong its other functions, like publishing the Journal of Onomastics (I know, that sounds like it might be Latin for something risqué, but it actually means the study of names), the American Name Society holds a contest for the Name of the Year.

Only one of the entrants for 2006 was the name of a company: Flickr. The rationale for nominating Flickr is the trend it started (quite unintentionally) of dropping a vowel out of words.

The Flickr name, by the way, has a filing date of May 10, 2005 with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This was shortly followed by a filing for the RAZR name by Motorola on November 9, 2005.

Due to Motorola's sheer marketing muscle and massive spending, most people assume that Motorola was the first to create a brand name by dropping a vowel. I would bet that even Flickr wasn't the first, but I'm not sure who might legitimately make that claim.

The winning Name of the Year was “Pluto,” because of the newly developed slang term meaning “to demote or downgrade” and because “The great emotional reaction that many had to the demotion, often expressed as feeling angry or sorry for Pluto, also shows how naming an inanimate object or a place with a personal name, even of an ancient Roman god, helps human beings to become personally attached to them.”

Given our own coverage of Pluto’s fate, we think it’s a good choice.

As a naming company, we find the American Name Society a helpful resource and point of reference. It's a valuable site with links to related websites about names and naming.

We’re definitely looking forward to the American Name Society's upcoming special collection of papers on Ethnicity and Naming. Individuals have changed their names both to emphasize their ethnicity:

  • Whoopi Goldberg was born Caryn Johnson
  • Yakov Smirnoff was born Yakov Pokhis

And to minimize it:

  • Woody Allen was born Allan Konigsberg
  • Jerry Lewis was born Joseph Levitch
  • Pee-Wee Herman was born Paul Rubenfeld

In addition, where else could we find out about new books on the subject of naming? They rarely make it to the New York Times Best-Seller List.

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Posted by Diane Prange at April 26, 2007 9:05 AM
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