Phonetic representation of the name LiftPort

Some of the Name Inspector’s readers have commented that the posts so far have all been pretty positive. While he has made a conscious decision to play nice until people get to know him, the Name Inspector is not all bunnies and butterflies. Here’s a story about a name that doesn’t work, bravely submitted by Michael J. Laine, President of LiftPort, a company “dedicated to building an Elevator to Space”. “I am quite interested in your opinion,” Michael wrote in his email, “and feel free to blog about it, if you like”. Here’s more from Michael:

For an interesting lesson in how an idea can get away from its founders, the next Google search should be ‘ “space elevator” LiftPort’. Results for our company are about 1:12 to that of the overall project. And that is fine, as it proves that the concept is taking on a life of its own. However, it tells me that we have not done a great job of branding ourselves to the idea. And that is a little frustrating…

… We named the company to be based on the English version of elevator, a “lift”, combined with a “port” of entry or departure. To me, this seems pretty obvious, and I have gotten feedback that it conveys the image we wanted.

Now the idea of an elevator to space is incredibly exciting, but the name LiftPort just doesn’t capture that excitement. When something is so intrinsically interesting, a descriptive name is often the best way to go. The simple phrase Space Elevator is more interesting than LiftPort, but it’s too descriptive to be a strong trademark.

So what’s the problem with LiftPort?

First, what’s exciting about the “Elevator to Space” idea is that it goes to outer space. There’s nothing about space in the name LiftPort. Lift gets at the idea of going up, but it’s a mundane word and does not evoke a vivid image. It makes The Name Inspector’s spouse think of those little things you put in your shoes to appear an inch or two taller. Doesn’t exactly send the imagination soaring beyond geosynchronous orbit, does it?

Then there’s the word port. It’s a perfectly good word to use in this context, evoking airports and shipping ports. But it’s a bit redundant in combination with lift. Like lift, port also suggests moving or carrying, as in transport and teleport (it is, in fact, derived from the Latin word meaning ‘to carry’). This kind of redundancy makes a compound name fall a bit flat, and squanders the opportunity that such names provide to combine words and their meanings in jarring and delightful ways.

Another problem with the combination of lift and port is that it just leads to too much ambiguity. Either word can be interpreted as a noun or a verb. That makes it especially hard to see how the meanings of the two words should be combined. Is this a port that lifts you up? A lift that ports you somewhere? Something that’s a combination of a lift and a port? A little artful ambiguity in a name is good, but too much is confusing.

Phonetically the name is okay, with balanced sonority and a little poetry from the repeated [t] sounds at the ends of both component words. The sequence of consonants in the middle–[ftp]–is a little hard to pronounce, though.

LiftPort isn’t one of those terrible, embarrassing names. The rationale for it makes perfect sense. It just doesn’t convey the excitement of this venture, and it doesn’t leave a strong impression on the mind. A better name would provide a more vivid image of an elevator going into space.

[tags]LiftPort, the name LiftPort, space, space elevator, elevator to space[/tags]

10 Responses to “Naming Stories: LiftPort”

  1. on 02 Feb 2007 at 10:03 pm Brian

    A better name would provide a more vivid image of an elevator going into space.

    Example? Or would that go against the spirit of the blog?

  2. on 03 Feb 2007 at 1:54 pm The Name Inspector

    Hi Brian,

    Suggesting a better name wouldn’t go against the spirit of the blog, exactly, but really doing it right would take more time than I can spend on a blog post, because it would be necessary to screen out all the unavailable URLs and trademarks. That said, I think something along the lines of SkyWire would be interesting if it were available. That name conjurs up a pretty vivid image and is descriptive without sounding generic. There are, unfortunately, a number of companies that already use the name, though I don’t know if any of them are in your space, so to speak.

  3. [...] I will allow that the line does not really work here. I’m not Juliet, this isn’t Verona and there ain’t a Montague in sight. But how could I resist? The Name Inspector* doesn’t like the name LiftPort … First, what’s exciting about the “Elevator to Space” idea is that it goes to outer space. There’s nothing about space in the name LiftPort. Lift gets at the idea of going up, but it’s a mundane word and does not evoke a vivid image. It makes The Name Inspector’s spouse think of those little things you put in your shoes to appear an inch or two taller. Doesn’t exactly send the imagination soaring beyond geosynchronous orbit, does it?Then there’s the word port. It’s a perfectly good word to use in this context, evoking airports and shipping ports. But it’s a bit redundant in combination with lift. Like lift, port also suggests moving or carrying, as in transport and teleport (it is, in fact, derived from the Latin word meaning ‘to carry’). This kind of redundancy makes a compound name fall a bit flat, and squanders the opportunity that such names provide to combine words and their meanings in jarring and delightful ways. [...]

  4. on 05 Feb 2007 at 7:58 am Michael Laine

    Thanks for your thoughts. I suspected that I would get a response along those lines. I actually DID consider SkyWire 4 years ago, when we were brainstroming names, and ruled it out for the same reasons – we couldnt get a website for it.

    Brian is right, we wont be changing our name. :-)

    Since we are not going to win praise about our name, I guess we are going to have to EARN our glory with RESULTS.

    Take Care. mjl

  5. [...] The Name Inspector would like to thank Michael Laine and Brian Dunbar for their gracious responses to his critical comments about the name LiftPort. Brian links to the critique in a good-natured post. In a comment Michael vows to impress the world with results rather than words. That’s really what matters, isn’t it? In the meantime, check out the posters and T-shirts for sale on the LiftPort website. They feature images from 3D models of the space elevator, and appear to be a lot cooler than the name! [...]

  6. on 05 Feb 2007 at 11:21 am Brian

    Brian is right, we wont be changing our name. :-)

    The upside to that would be that any stock with the LiftPort name becomes an instant collector’s item. The downside to the upside is we have to make it all work _first_ and hang onto the swag for a few years.

  7. on 07 Mar 2007 at 3:38 pm Brian Laks

    Wow, I think this just goes to show how much work should go into the name BEFORE the website and company are up and running. Many of the posts I have been reading across this site have a similar comment half way down them – “We won’t be changing our name”.

    I think this would be the response you’d get from any company that has already spent much effort establishing their brand. It would be nice to have a forum where potential names could be batted around so you don’t realize you have a stinker name after carving the marble statue logo for your headquarters.

    But to the people at LiftPort, I like the name. It’s simple, easy to remember, and industrial-sounding which also gives it an air of officiality, unlike some other cutesier names that aren’t as drab. (But I do like skywire too!) Maybe that could be one of your future product offerings. “Skywire, by LiftPort, coming soon!”

  8. on 22 Mar 2007 at 10:41 am The Name Inspector

    Hi Brian (Laks),

    Thanks for your comment. I like the idea of having a forum where entrepreneurs can discuss their name ideas with others. I’ve even considered having something like that on this site. Hmmm….

  9. on 31 Mar 2009 at 12:53 pm Spicoli

    Mabye LiftPort could do something like John Cougar did. He became John Cougar Mellencamp and waited a few years and then dropped the Cougar part completly to become just John Mellencamp. The slow transition thing. BTW, what ever happend to Hilary Rodam Clinton, hmmm. I thought of a good name for a band a few years back, check this out, Crack Spackler. Whataya think?

  10. on 25 Jun 2010 at 5:51 am Dorian Gray

    This is ridiculous. As Michael Laine suggests, results speak louder than the name itself. Do Yahoo, Google, iPad, Kazaa, Twitter, any of those sound like good names? Conversely, Netscape is an awesome name, and it’s nearly completely dead.

    In short, the only qualification a name needs is that it is unique – or put another way, not taken.

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