Groupon

Originally published Jan 5, 2011

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: groupgropegrab 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.

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