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November 26, 2007

How to Name a Name

halfagain.jpg

I enjoy the process of coming up with a name for a company or product, and the fact that so many domains are taken makes it more challenging and enjoyable. (My latest, greatest is Muchobene.) Halfagain Marketing posted an article called “What’s my name?” which is a very useful list of naming tips. For example, it mentions two online tools that I had never heard of: More Words and Word Lab Tools.

I’ve covered naming three times in the past (almost as many times as Truemors!) in case you’re interested: The Name Game, Trademark Tips for Your Web App, and A Study of the Pros and Cons of Company Names. By the way, I wish someone would create—hopefully it’s available already, and I don’t know about it—a site where I could enter a word in English and simultaneously get the translation in several languages like Japanese, Hawaiian, Hebrew, French, German, Spanish, and Latin. This would be very useful for coming up with names.

Update: Michael Kreppein pointed out (thanks!) that Dictionary.com provides multiple translations at the bottom of a word’s page—I seldom scroll down that far, so I didn’t remember this. Still need Hawaiian and Japanese in English characters, though.

Comments

You can get translations in multiple languages for individual words (or phrases) at wordchamp.com. If the word isn't too obscure, you can frequently get the word in dozens of languages. Of course, if you can't read those languages, then you're out of luck...

Hi Guy,

Your insights into the labyrinth of corporate branding are well taken. And in each case, the challenges can be quite different. When naming Coghead.com, for example, the goal was to create a compelling and engaging name -- one that was simple to spell and had an exact matching .com domain name. Often business owners give up too soon when naming a company, and opt for awkward, ill-conceived, misspelled names that haunt them for years to come.

Many of the best names I've created were available and unregistered... there for the taking. They just require a little extra creative tweaking. An example is SeaOfDiamonds.com That name had never been registered at the time, and yet most business people I speak with think "all the good names are gone."

If you look at the drop lists at Snapnames.com and now NameJet.com, you'll see that the majority of the names that are deleting are awful. So there's no need for people to give up hope. There are still countless good names available with the addition of a little creative imagination. And you have demonstrated that ability on a number of occasions.

I have used two interesting sites to generate inventive names:
- Fantasy name generator (even with a Hawaiian theme)
http://www.rinkworks.com/namegen/

- Random startup name generator
http://www.iq0.com/startup.html

I know this is going to bring it back but remember Alta Vista? They have this utility called Babel Fish Translation which allows you to pick a language of origin then translate the word into a set number of languages. For example, English translates into the most number of languages, 12: Chinese-simple, Chinese-traditional, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portugese, Russian and Spanish. Most other are only translated into a few languages. It does not have Hawaiian, Hebrew or Latin. Unfortunately, it doesn't do translations into multiple languages in one fell swoop. Also, some of the translations may be using terms no longer en vogue. For example, my attempt to impress an Italian resulted in a reply about how it used terms that hadn't been in play since the time of Mussolini! But hey, maybe going back in time for some "fresh" words is the answer, eh? http://babelfish.altavista.com/

Earlier in the year we allowed people to vote on our top 4 names for our web application. The site was called NameMyApp.

http://www.namemyapp.com/

YikeSite won!

Hey Guy,

Some good tips there...

Funny enough, I posted a similar article a couple of days. Here are my thoughts on how to choose a domain:

http://www.mappingtheweb.com/2007/11/23/choosing-a-domain/

Let me know what you think...

Cheers,
Aidan
www.MappingTheWeb.com

Although, I'm not quite sure if they can change the world, I like your suggestions and other blog entries. Most things are worth a try.

For the naming of actual sources I think common words with typos are kind of 'in'.

Best regards,

Grab a book on etymology and look at all the root words that make up our language. I find this to be a good way to start coming up with names.

When translating possible names into other languages, it is important to check out slang words as well. As a striking example, some years ago a French company released a chocolate bar called "crap". In French, this is not a problem. However, when they started to try to export it to the UK, the name did not go down that well. The fact that chocolate is brown of course just makes the name even more inappropriate.

Rather than Dictionary.com, check out http://www.websters-online-dictionary.com. It is ten times more comprehensive and will give you much more bang for your buck, particularly with regards to translations.

At Harvard, the dorms are called "Houses", hence Quincy House, Lowell House, etc. They are often named after former presidents of the university. Alas, Leonard Hoar, president from 1672 to 1675, will never be so honored.

And never ever forget to cross check the new names in urban dictionary and around the world (where ever you think of doing business). Need examples? Jumpy, Jobby, Zune.. (even if it's only funny for the Canadian French speakers, and not spelled the same, nevertheless it reminds of something quite different).

Hi Guy

The game of the name is fun, but can be problematic, like the residents of Whitewood, S.D. have found out. They named a street after a general called Hooker! So Hooker Street it is and the towns reverent is not happy about it :)

Cheers
Hjörtur

What's needed is not a site that translates your name into other languages. You need a site that translates the translation back to English.

You know the story about the car Nova right - which in Spanish means no go.

I recently came across a site named tamade. The sites owner was Thai - it means simple in Thai! But in Chinese it means motherf...er.

Cheers.
Ashok

i guess a name is very important, i've seen wrongly named product no matter how good the product is, the product is screwed. So i guess by being creative and taking sometime to name a product is important. a good way is to have a competition within the company to name the product where the winner get some reward. :) win-win

user feedback is always the best. That's the way I came up with a name for my recent venture: http://wimaxxed.blogspot.com/2007/10/whats-in-name.html

The funny thing about most great names I know is that they're very simple. Like your Half Again. It's not such a fancy word and yet it's very effective. A few weeks ago, there have been posts about the name Alibaba and how its effects are opposite to the real meaning of the name. But anyway, I'm babbling.

Well, after Harp28 got sticky I have since learned:

1. Two syllables is best
2. No ambiguous spelling
3. No meaningless acronyms
4. Do not describe your product/service
5. People have to say your name. Make it sayable.

There's probably more, probably all tucked away in a book by Jack Trout.

It's always a bit more fun naming your own venture than it is naming one for a client.

I had an exercise I've used with a few past projects that proved rather fun and interesting; Scrabble Marketing". It is amazing how a board game, Scrabble, can revolutionize your branding and product naming strategy sessions. It’s a fun, exciting and productive method for idea generation.

We had some fun with our own branding ... The creative behind naming creativity

You might like Dot-o-mator, which lets you combine lists of words into all their possible combinations. I wrote it a while back out of frustration at trying to find available names. I've used it to find several good new names, although outwitting the domain name hoarders is a tough task...

Guy,
Dictionary.com has the translations of many English words into languages including Arabic, Czech, Danish, French, German, Russian and more. But no Hebrew or Latin although they have many others. The site uses the Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary for the translations.
- Michael

Guy, have you just taken over TechCrunch? :-)

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