YouTube phonetic

When YouTube was acquired by Google, there were jokes about how it might be renamed (GooTube? GoogTube?). There were some serious suggestions, too. One branding expert urged Google to change the name to GoogleTube.

In the Name Inspector’s not-so-humble opinion, Google was smart to let things stand. YouTube is a great name. A compound made of two common monosyllabic words, it feels easy and familiar. While it hints at the tired convention My ___ (e.g. My Yahoo, My eBay, MySpace, My.Netscape, My AOL, etc.), the second person pronoun makes it fresh and more honest (all those “my” names have big corporations speaking in “my” voice, which is kind of creepy). It’s nice that it can be either singular or plural, too.

Like many good names, YouTube evokes sound-alike phrases that activate appropriate associations in our minds. First, of course, it’s built on the pattern of boob tube, and sets up an implicit contrast with this comically derisive term (“This isn’t the boob tube, this is the YOU tube!”). The use of tube to refer to video is a little retro and ironic, which makes it kind of fun. YouTube also suggests the phrase you too, as in, for example, “You too can be a star!”. These expressions and their meanings resonate in the background, making this an excellent name for a video service featuring user-generated content.

YouTube is also strong phonetically. It has no consonant clusters, so it’s very easy and pleasant to say (unlike GoogleTube, which has that ugly knot of consonants in the middle). There’s poetry in the repeated vowel sound [u], but it avoids the cutesiness of perfect rhyming compounds like SmugMug and TagJag.

The Name Inspector’s conclusion: Chad and Steve found a good name in YouTube, and Google was smart to keep it.

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8 Responses to “YouTube”

  1. [...] Aside from the meanings based on the burying/unearthing metaphor, there is of course the groovy 1960s-70s meaning. You dig? This meaning, similar to that of grok, is something like ‘behold and appreciate’, or sometimes just ‘like a lot’. When you vote for a story on Digg, you’re saying that you dig (like) it, and are asking others to dig (behold and appreciate) it. As with the names YouTube and Biznik, there seems to be an ironic evocation of bygone days in this name. The Name Inspector detects a trend here. [...]

  2. on 22 Feb 2007 at 8:09 am Robert Labossiere

    And don’t forget “tubular”, an expression of all things cool.

    It’s also like the people are the tube inside the wheel of the WWW. My personal childhood experience with inner tubes was awesome. Not only did we use farm tractor inner tubes in the water, but we actually curled up inside them and rolled down hills. Now that was tubular! (Anyone posted a YouTube video of that yet?)

    And while people love round things generally for their association with wholeness, completeness, calm, stasis, tubes can be a little bit creepy. Think extrusion. There’s a new yogurt drink called Tubes, which is treading dangerous ground I think, associating the drink with the intestinal track… but perhaps I’m over-thinking it.

  3. on 22 Feb 2007 at 10:01 am The Name Inspector

    Thanks for those great observations.

    I don’t think you’re over-thinking the tube thing at all. I completely agree that there’s something creepy about them, and that makes Tubes a really dubious name for any food product. But somehow especially yogurt. Maybe because it’s goopy and contains bacteria.

  4. on 30 Jan 2010 at 2:22 pm Julia and Arianna

    hi.me and my friend arianna want to make a youtube channel with our names mixed in it aka julia and arianna but we have no idea what to use

  5. [...] part of the entry for Youtube: Like many good names, YouTube evokes sound-alike phrases that activate appropriate associations in [...]

  6. on 10 Jun 2010 at 5:16 pm Icarus Lai

    Very comprehensive interpretation.
    I thought ‘tube’ was just a synonym of ‘channel’, tv channel
    so ‘youtube’ could mean ‘your own channel’ or ‘a channel for you’

  7. on 21 Sep 2010 at 12:23 pm jessica

    we are running a call centre ..already we named for the company as dag tech but cureently we are facing so many issues and also finical problems…so we rae trying to updated some new name for company..kindly hepl out with luckiest name should click for lifelong time….

  8. [...] part of the entry for Youtube: Like many good names, YouTube evokes sound-alike phrases that activate appropriate associations in [...]

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