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A couple months back The Name Inspector had lunch with Brian Dorsey. Brian talked about a kooky idea he had for a website: people would specify a date and a geographical area and get matched up with random strangers via email to meet for lunch.

Brian really likes to go out for lunch. He works in Seattle’s International District, which is full of East Asian restaurants, and knows where to get the best hand-shaved noodles and nigiri and whatnot. Brian also likes the idea of just talking to people that he wouldn’t normally run into during his day. He’s a pretty idealistic guy, and believes that we Americans would benefit from being more cooperative and connected. Brian has a vision. A lunch vision.

He produced a list of names that he was considering for his project/website, which wasn’t exactly conceived as a business yet, in the sense of being, you know, a way to make money. But of course it’s not hard to see how something like this could become “monetized”. Not surprisingly, many of the names contained the word lunch.

Luncheonator.

Lunchendipity.

Some of these names were pretty damned funny. But many of them didn’t really have the properties we normally associate with “good” business names. The two names above, actually blends involving the word luncheon, have a goofy charm but are too long and hard to spell.

Lunch Bastard.

(Really? Yes. Brian has a whole rationale for this name. The Name Inspector has not been entirely convinced by his arguments.)

Lunch is the obvious word to use here. After all, it’s a website that’s all about having lunch with people. But lunch is also a hard word to work with. That final consonant cluster really limits its combinatorial potential.

A ways down on the list there was a standout name: Noonhat. The Name Inspector pointed at that one and said, “This is interesting” (and meant it in a good way). Brian smiled because he especially liked that one. He said he imagined names being drawn from a hat. Out comes the noon hat, names are drawn, lunch plans are made. He also liked the graphic possibilities.

The Name Inspector also thought of the hat as representing a role or persona. Hats are commonly used as metonymies for roles–there are white hat and black hat hackers and search engine optimizers, people sometimes say “Now I’m wearing my _____ hat” (e.g. “my teacher hat”, “my boss hat”, etc.) to indicate that they’re acting in some particular capacity. The idea was that you’d take off your work hat and put on your lunchtime socializing hat–your noon hat–for an hour. People might even show up at the restaurant in real hats to identify each other.

While Noonhat doesn’t contain the word lunch, noon is an effective metonymic reference to lunch, because what else do we associate with that time of day? And this name is short and simple and graphically interesting, with the double o and the near-identical n and h and the curves in all those letters. It also looks like and rhymes with moonbat, which, while used as a political epithet, might be ironically embraced by anyone whose tendencies are at all liberal. And let’s face it, who else is going to want to have lunch with random strangers?

So Brian’s project became Noonhat. Why does The Name Inspector write about it now? Because the Noonhat website is live! It’s graphically pretty sparse, but it includes a really cool Google Maps mashup. If you live in the Seattle area, check it out and have a lunch adventure. Unfortunately for those who live elsewhere, Noonhat doesn’t cover any other areas…yet. But The Name Inspector is confident that the Noonhat craze will sweep the nation. Or at least it should.

[tags]noonhat, the name noonhat, lunch, luncheon, lunchendipity, luncheonator, dining, eating out, social networks, ID, international district, Seattle[/tags]

4 Responses to “Noonhat”

  1. on 22 Jun 2007 at 12:31 am technogoddess

    I wanted to comment on a portion of your posting:

    The Name Inspector also thought of the hat as representing a role or persona.

    I’m constantly fascinated by the use of the word hat to indicate the role, or position that a person takes on at a certain time, place, or in relation to another/other people or groups. There is an area of study in psychology regarding this topic called positioning theory.

    Noonhat is extremely compelling to me because the ‘hat’ portion of the word implies that different people wearing different ‘hats’ will create unique experiences during a luncheon. If I met with your friend wearing my teacher hat, we would have a different experience than if I was in my: movie fan hat,computer geek hat, mother of a herd of boys hat, or political liberal hat. These are just a sample of the many hats I personally wear on an almost daily basis and indicate the myriad combinations that await Brian at his favorite restaurants.

    I’m going to check out Brian’s blog, but I won’t be able to have lunch with him. I live on the East coast and gas is just too expensive for such a long road trip.

  2. on 26 Jun 2007 at 1:34 pm Brian Dorsey

    technogoddess,

    We may not be able to have lunch together, but within a couple of months I’m planning to open Noonhat up to the world, and you’ll be able to sign up for lunches near you.

    Take care,
    -Brian

  3. on 18 Oct 2007 at 2:29 pm Uncle Don

    Brian – Nice picture of you and your hat. Is that your commute hat, relax hat, work hat, thinking cap, avoid work cap, or? Great name for a cool idea. Maybe it will be the next (platonic) E Harmony.

    I had a lunch time idea of my own years ago. Seattle has lots of big boats that sit in their slips 350 days a year. I thought it would be cool to rent some of the nice ones out for catered lunches for business people, social clubs, etc. I thought that might be more fun for some people than just going to a restaurant. Obviously I never did anything with the idea. Looks like you are doing well and having fun. Hope to see you two back up here some day soon.

    Cheers,
    Uncle Don

  4. on 12 May 2012 at 6:22 am No Name

    Hey Mr. Inspector,

    I was just surfing around trying to find a good name for myself for Match.com when I came across your site. “Maryannapolis” was my old name and well you can see for yourself that it’s very highly uninteresting. I opened that account about four years ago, long before I was “ready”, closed it, and now that I’m so much more grown up (57), I’m ready. But to be honest I don’t like the whole Match thing (typical anti-tech boomer), and I’m trying to do it a little differently. I’m not clicking off any “interests or activities” because seriously, I’ve been “matched” with fellows who have “similar interests” or “things in common”, and it has been, quite frankly, shocking at times. It all comes down to a personal meeting, and there is the “interest”, or not, it doesn’t matter if it’s “in common”. Only that it’s “mutual”.

    Anyway for whatever reason “Noonhat” caught my eye. I love this idea and I hope it makes it to Annapolis, where people are a bit uptight, Myself not included. Well maybe a little. So, I, like many, wear lots of hats and have lots of interests, in fact I could become interested in other things I’m not already interested in. So I don’t care about those checklists. Thought I’d see if you have any ideas for a match name for me?? Best of luck! very mary annapolis

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