Somehow, when The Name Inspector wasn’t looking, Groupon grew from an obscure startup with a funny name to a business robust and confident enough to say “No thank you” to a $6-billion acquisition offer from Google. Maybe that’s why Forbes.com called Groupon the fastest-growing web business ever. Faster than Ebay, Amazon.com, or Google. Whoa.

Groupon offers ridiculous discounts to its users, on the condition that enough people commit to making a purchase. It thus delivers new customers to hungry businesses, making everyone happy and Groupon very rich.

The name Groupon has always kind of irritated The Name Inspector, and now it’s time to write about that.

The unpleasantness of the name Groupon, at least to this particular name inspector’s ears, can’t be attributed to obviously poor construction. It’s not exactly a case of awkwordplay, because one emphasized syllable is replaced with another, and there are no difficult consonant clusters. But something still sounds awkward. The Name Inspector believes it might have to do with the way the syllable division in Groupon (Grou + pon) splits up the word group. But even that’s not quite right. The name Scoopon, which belongs to an Australian company that’s been sued by Groupon for domain squatting (they bought groupon.co.au), has the same problem, but sounds better than Groupon. Maybe it’s the way the r in Groupon changes the sound of the first syllable. Or maybe it has to do with the meaning: if you think of the name as group + on, you get kind of an orgiastic vibe from it: group, grope, grab on, get your group on… That’s not just The Name Inspector, is it? You get that too, right? Right?!

Of course you do. So don’t the people at Groupon know their company has a funny name? They probably do. According to the company blog, the guy who came up with the name Groupon is Aaron With, the Editor in Chief at Groupon. Apparently he’s responsible for the unique voice in which Groupon’s deals are presented. In its short life as a big deal, Groupon has become known for its goofy and irreverent content. For example, here’s how today’s offer for Seattle starts out:

Though they work best as a gleaming smile, perfectly white teeth can also be removed in emergencies and inserted into candelabra for the purposes of exploring haunted houses. Keep your incisors illuminated with today’s Groupon…

This attitude extends to their naming. In one of the oddest promotional stunts in The Name Inspector’s memory, Groupon offers a chance at a college scholarship to any “Groupon baby”, defined as “a baby parented by a couple that used a Groupon on their first date”. The name of this program is Grouspawn.

Then there’s the name of that company blog: Groublogpon, which uses the extremely rare word-formation strategy of infixation–plopping one word right into the middle of another. The name Groublogpon actually separates the final p from the rest of the word group–it almost seems to make fun of the very property that contributes to Groupon‘s funny sound. Here’s the tagline that appears under the blog name: “Sweet name, I’ll totally remember it”.

Maybe The Name Inspector is just being crotchety. Mrs. Name Inspector likes the name (as do several other people). And thanks to her, The Name Inspector is going to enjoy a wonderful massage next week, at a deeply discounted price. So he should just chill out.

9 Responses to “Groupon”

  1. on 05 Jan 2011 at 4:56 pm Fritinancy

    I share your crotchet about Groupon and appreciate the way you explained it. Groupblogpon is just dreadful. For some reason, though, I found the company’s invented holiday, Grouponicus, rather appealing.

  2. on 05 Jan 2011 at 5:37 pm Michael

    Good to see a post from you Mr. Inspector! It’s been far too long. I agree completely with the ‘get your group on (man!)’ vibe, but am not particularly offended by the name. Kinda feels like a name that, if successful, will just come around to sounding as natural as ‘Google’ does now.

  3. on 07 Jan 2011 at 8:13 am Emma

    By chance(?) in French it works quite well: “Groupon” is a mix of “Groupe” (=Group) and “Coupon” (=voucher), which describe the business well…

  4. on 07 Jan 2011 at 2:47 pm The Name Inspector

    Thanks for your comment, Emma. Yes, the name is supposed to work the same way in English: it’s a blend of group + coupon. But it still sounds funny. Maybe it sounds better in French.

  5. on 12 Jan 2011 at 11:15 am Carolyn

    Everything sounds better in French.
    But I like the name. In fact, I Googled “Who thought of the name Groupon” just so I could find out what clever person came up with it. And in doing so, I found your blog.
    Thanks for providing the background information as well as the commentary. Even though I didn’t agree with you on this one, I love that you do this.
    And yes, they did take it too far with ‘Groublogpon’.

  6. on 12 Jan 2011 at 4:57 pm Giga

    I think Groupon is a better name than the other sites in that space. Check out this awful names: social living, buywithme, dealon, tippr, dealpop, dailydish, dealmobs, dealperk, yipit, dealpulp, divvydeal, dealsurf, eversave, familyfinds etc

  7. on 13 Jan 2011 at 7:06 am The thief of time

    I don’t like the name Groupon too. I prefer its Australian branch: Stardeals.It sounds much softer for me.

  8. on 14 Jan 2011 at 11:25 pm Cinnamon

    Neat, a new Inspector posting. Glad I stopped by! – I happen to share the dislike for the name. I think that part of orthographic space is just too densely populated with unpleasant images: “croup cough”, “grouch”.

    Even just “group” isn’t all that pleasant: “Group session”, “group dynamics” (and a few others..)- these all sound like things that would be preferable without the “group” bit, as far as I’m concerned. Really: “group.” – Hachoo!

  9. on 22 Jan 2011 at 8:45 am Giles

    I find that if I write it as grouppon, it is more likeable. Perhaps this is because the idea of coupon is given slightly more attention.

    Groupon is an awkward word, though.

    Groopon? Grupon? Ghroopon? Crowdon? Urrgh!

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