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Entrepreneur and longtime reader Rich Skrenta has a search start-up called Blekko (click on that link and say hi!). It was covered on TechCrunch, and then Rich wrote a follow-up blog post telling the story of the name Blekko and asking for The Name Inspector’s input.

OK, here goes. Obviously Blekko is a ridiculous name and Rich knows it. He says in his post that it was chosen as the funniest of a number of options. He claims that one vendor told him the name was fantastic and must not be changed, but admits that those comments might have been intended ironically. He also hints that part of the reason he even got written up on TechCrunch was because of the silly name.

Comments on the TechCrunch post, when they address the name at all, are uniformly negative. Someone says the name sounds like retching. Another asks if they went with Blekko because blechbarf.com wasn’t available.

Rich writes that he spoke to some naming firms and they told him that, despite some negative phonetic associations, the name Blekko is essentially an empty vessel.

Oh, how The Name Inspector hates the expression empty vessel. The implication of calling a name an “empty vessel” is that you can fill it up with whatever meaning you want. That’s such a silly branding cliche.

Of course, the way a company name is ultimately perceived will depend on what people know, believe and feel about the company it’s attached to, and that’s going to depend on lots of other things. A good name for a company that fails will come to seem not so good. A silly name for a wildly successful company–Google comes to mind–will start to seem like pure naming genius.

Some people conclude from this that names don’t matter. That’s faulty reasoning. If a company made bad hiring decisions, but prevailed anyway due to its kick-ass technology, you wouldn’t say that hiring doesn’t matter. All companies do some things right and some things wrong, and their ultimate success depends on the complex interaction of all those little successes and failures.

The point of a name is that it’s there from the beginning, and can influence the way people feel about your company before they know anything else about it. Even when names are not obviously meaningful, they remind people of words, and invite them to make relevant connections, perhaps only subconsciously, between the meanings of those words and the company in question.

So, do you want those associations to make things easier or harder?

There are, of course, different ways a name can help you. If you want to blend into the background, it can help you do that. If you want to be provocative to get some attention, a name can help with that, too.

But after the attention dies down, you still have the name. Then it should be able to help you in other ways. If you’re lucky enough to do everything else right, your silly name may not be a hindrance. But if you make some missteps along the way, a silly name will make people less forgiving. What did you expect, they’ll say, from a company named Blekko?

So what, exactly, is wrong with the name Blekko? It’s not a mystery. It sounds like an exclamation of disgust, usually written as blech, that may represent vomiting onomatopoetically. As The Name Inspector likes to pronounce it, blech ends with a voiceless uvular or velar fricative, but the k sound in Blekko is a close approximation.

If you search for blech on Google, you’ll mostly find pages where it’s used as a surname or as a German or Yiddish word. If you search on Technorati, however, you’ll find lots of examples like this:

Blech. Sucks gettin’ old, I tell ya.

I also used fat free cheese, which I wouldn’t recommend using. Blech!

I absolutely abhorred mopping the floor. It was futile. There was so much grease and gunk and nasty on the floor, you just schmeared it everywhere. blech!

Rich, if you’re not comfortable naming your company Yukko, it’s safe to say you shouldn’t call it Blekko, either.

But you’re in stealth mode. The Name Inspector believes you have no intention of launching as Blekko. Though he hopes he’s wrong.

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5 Responses to “Blekko”

  1. on 07 Jan 2008 at 4:13 pm ouija repair

    Blekko reminds me of a cartoon character name, maybe Bluto’s half brother, whose name must not be mentioned by the Bluto family.

  2. on 04 Feb 2008 at 11:54 pm Ed meds

    Was surprised with this article and blog. Seems that name Blekko isn’t just empty vessel as many other names. Thanks for the good stuff, will be visit thenameinspector again course I like it.

  3. on 05 Jan 2009 at 12:31 pm Brian

    I had a friend who said Blekko instead of blech all the time, and spelled it the same if in an email. For me, its not an association, it IS disgust!

  4. on 04 Feb 2011 at 6:30 pm Blek Kohbahma

    While I am considering pursuing action against these guys for misappropriating my name, you must admit that they are getting a lot of free publicity.

    I remember how ridiculous “Cisco” sounded back in 1983. Hey Seeesko, thees ees Paaancho…

    And Yahooooooooo-ooo? Remember the first time you heard that?

    In the 70′s, do you remember when you saw that hot chick that you were google-eyed?

    And with a name like Blek Kohbahma, people would always advise me to change my name. That was, however, before the 2010 presidential election.

    Now I am getting job offers almost every day from Las Vegas.

    Go figure.

  5. on 28 Jul 2012 at 8:20 pm Ammond

    I don’t buy the story from Skrenta’s blog. That’s because I’m nuts. And bored.

    Blekko is some form of near inverse from Google. I played this in Excel and can’t come up with a satisfactory mathematical relationship, but I’m certain of the general idea. As a matter of fact, it is intuitively obvious that Blekko is a phonetic quasi-inverse of Google. Match up the k’s with the o’s, (going smooth vowel to sharp consonant), and compare the final “o” in Blekko with the starting “G” in Google. The “L” carries over – which is noteworthy.

    In any case, the idea must have been to present the conception of an inverse or counterpart of Google. The double k is unnecessary. That convinces me all the more, and had me searching for a mathematical pattern. Too bad I stink at math. I’ll stick with crazy – I’m better at it.

    One more insane thought – your “Blech…” comments remind me a famous Ble[t]ch: Bletchley Park. They did strange things with names for things and the numbers that describe them.

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