Someone should write about the name Pinterest.


Don’t you think someone should write about Pinterest?


OK, it looks like The Name Inspector is going to have to do it.


Sometimes it seems like he’s the only one who ever does any name inspecting around here.

Pinterest, like Groupon, is one of those blend names that doesn’t seem to exhibit any obvious design flaws but that still doesn’t quite work, at least for The Name Inspector’s ears and eyes. Clearly the name combines the words pin and interest. The service is a bit like an online cork board onto which you pin things that interest you. What could be simpler?

On the face of it the name is well constructed. The word pin, which deserves its own emphasis, replaces the first emphasized syllable of interest, which it rhymes with. So there’s no obvious awkwordplay here. But there’s still something a bit odd about this blend.

One thing that bothers The Name Inspector about the name Pinterest is its distracting resemblance to the word Pinteresque, which describes a literary work written in the manner of English playwright and screenwriter Harold Pinter. Ever see Meryl Streep in The French Lieutenant’s Woman? Pinter wrote that screenplay. He also wrote a play called Betrayal, which had a great screen adaptation starring Jeremy Irons, Ben Kingsley, and Patricia Hodge. It’s the story of an adulterous affair told in reverse chronological order.

Don’t worry, The Name Inspector won’t tell you how it starts.

Pinteresque works have mundane yet tense or ominous dialogue with lots of awkward silences.

Anyway, what was The Name Inspector talking about? And have you seen his glasses?

How silly, they’re right here on his face.

Oh, right, Pinterest. The Name Inspector started hearing so much about it that he had to try it. And it’s great! It’s a simple idea that seems obvious in retrospect, and it’s easy to see why people are excited about it. Everyone likes those designy sites that show their posts as a checkerboard of images, right? Pinterest lets you make one of those out of your web bookmarks. Or really, it’s more of a patchwork, because the “pins”, as they’re called, aren’t all the same size, but the experience is appealing in the same way.

The experience offered by the name Pinterest, on the other hand, is less satisfying. The linguistic reasons for that remain somewhat obscure, but The Name Inspector is determined to ferret them out. He suspects it might have to do with the minimal duration of the first syllable of interest. Compare it to the first syllable of syntax, for example, which seems longer and more complete. Or it might have to do with the abstract meaning of interest. Or the particular syntactic contexts it occurs in, which sound funny with the blend: This might be of Pinterest to you, I have a strong Pinterest in neologism, etc.

But these are trifles to trouble only The Name Inspector’s mind. He suspects most people will be merrily pinning, not caring much about the name. So pin away!



7 Responses to “Hmm, Pinteresting.”

  1. on 24 Feb 2012 at 10:52 am Fritinancy

    I thought I was the only one who heard “Pinteresque” in “Pinterest.”

    I agree with you that while the name is inoffensive and clear, it doesn’t sing. The short vowels are trivializing, and the name a bit too literal and mundane. Overall, “Pinterest” fails to communicate the visual, beautiful, quasi-magical quality of the service.

  2. on 24 Feb 2012 at 11:11 am Fred

    I too thought of Pinter.

    Anyway, clearly it should be called ‘Pinboardesque’

  3. on 24 Feb 2012 at 11:22 am Andrew

    Phew. (or “whew”). For a while there I thought I was the only one who could think of nothing else when I saw this name.

    Nobody seemed to get it when I posted my first board:

  4. on 24 Feb 2012 at 1:50 pm Michael

    Brilliant Pinterest board, Andrew. I’m sure most people, including me, have never heard of the term “Pinteresque” But if Pinterest keeps growing at its current rate, someone is going to have to point out the association and the media will pick it up. Yet if the history of the iPad is any indication – when the name “iPad” was revealed, there were plenty of Depends jokes – people might not care much about the meaning of ‘Pinterest” now that more people associate it with online pinboarding than Pinteresque connotations.

  5. on 24 Feb 2012 at 4:44 pm The Name Inspector

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. Andrew, that Pinteresque pinboard is hilarious. Wish I’d thought of searching for “Pinteresque” on Pinterest before posting!

  6. on 26 Feb 2012 at 10:44 am Andrew

    “Pinteresque” on Pinterest before posting. Say that three times fast.

  7. on 08 Mar 2012 at 1:51 pm Zach Dennis

    There is Pinerest which is a local mental health services facility in West Michigan. They are currently running a billboard campaign that uses it’s web url I can’t help but think the billboard is for pinterest every time I see it. I realize this has nothing to do with the name, but I find it amusing every morning on my way to work so I thought I’d share.

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