At first glance, Kindle Fire seems like a pretty good name. It uses a thematically coherent naming strategy, similar to the one that Apple used when it named the Macintosh, presumably inspired by the apple variety McIntosh. What’s more, the word fire, like the word apple, is simple and familiar, and has lots of metaphorical significance and emotional oomph.

But the name Kindle Fire doesn’t work the way the name Apple Macintosh did. The name Macintosh applied part of the taxonomy of apples, in a witty analogy, to the world of Apple products: just as a McIntosh is a type of apple, a Macintosh was a type of Apple. The name Kindle Fire is different. While the words are thematically related, there isn’t a taxonomic relation between them.

The relation that does exist between the words kindle and fire makes the name Kindle Fire unsatisfying.

First, it’s redundant. The concept of fire is implicit in the concept of kindling. The word fire, being so generic, doesn’t add any information.

Second, Kindle Fire is metaphorically incoherent. The metaphor behind the name Kindle suggests that the device is something that kindles, or starts, fire. The fire itself could be the flame of knowledge, or burning curiosity, or something else interesting like that. Successful branding of the device could reflect those interpretations and the broader emotional and cultural significance of fire.

But giving a Kindle device the name Fire short-circuits the coherent and appropriate metaphorical interpretations, forcing us to apply the word fire to the device itself, and that doesn’t make sense. It can’t kindle and be fire at the same time.

For those reasons, the name Kindle Fire doesn’t burn as brightly as it should.

(This post also appears on GeekWire.)

6 Responses to “The name Kindle Fire: Hot or not?”

  1. on 03 Oct 2011 at 1:50 pm Nathan Sudds

    I get the reasoning behind what you are saying… but I think maybe the name of the first device finally makes sense, although I am not saying the device is the best on the market that’s still to be seen. The “Kindle” was not quite the device it needed to be…it hadn’t burned bright enough let’s say but adding Fire to the name shows that finally this is a device that has “caught flame” … From Kindle to Fire —- but calling it the Amazon Fire really would be worse and doesn’t connect with the Kindle brand, so why not the same Kindle you might know and might love but better… it’s on Fire.

    I guess it’s two ways to look at it. Incoherent or not, seems to me most people got the idea which is why this post is worth reading :)

    It’s more of a crescendo… the progression of the Kindle to the Kindle Fire

    Let’s see if it lives up to what the name suggests… it’s still a ‘Kindle’ to me right now.. or I guess because it’s built on Android is it?

  2. on 15 Feb 2012 at 5:52 pm Rich Tatum

    I’d be more glowing about the Kindle Fire had the first iteration been the “Kindle Spark.” What’s next though? Kindle Blaze? Kindle Cauldron? Kindle Conflagration? Also, there’s enough negative connotations to fire-lingo that there’s risk of parody. Kindle Fumes. Kindle Ash.

    Kindle Pyre.

    Rich
    BlogRodent

  3. on 13 Mar 2012 at 10:42 am Ryan Hanegan

    Ever heard of the Ray Bradbury book Fahrenheit 451… the end of books. Hmmmm Kindle/Fire.

  4. on 28 Jul 2012 at 10:07 am cj

    Malachi 1:10 NKJV uses the words “kindle fire.”

  5. on 30 Jul 2012 at 8:05 pm amy

    Right. Also, I don’t want my book-tablet-thingy to be on fire while I’m holding it. Also — yeah, Fahrenheit 451, just too close.

    Plus “kindle” — just too damn cute for words. We’re going to kindle and spark your imagination! Oh, the leaden sense I get from these words, always spoken by overweight women with short hair and glasses who’re really better off dealing with some mildly bloody kitchen emergency. They’re champs there. Not with lit.

  6. on 14 Feb 2013 at 8:43 am Chris

    The name Kindle Fire was inspired by a Shakespeare quote: “As soon go kindle fire with snow, as seek to quench the fire of love with words.”

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