Limber Media phonetic

A while ago Allegra Searle-LeBel sent in a story about naming her online media-editing startup:

We had been struggling for about 2 months, trying to find the right name. There was this funny, almost mystical sense that it existed *somewhere*. We just needed to keep slogging through the troughs of lame options and almost good enough ideas. I tried combining different parts of my name with words describing our services or industry (BlissArt, MadriGal, DisinterMedia, FemMediate). Terrible and incessant variations on terrible. Not all of them were so bad; some of them would have been good enough. But I didn’t want to have just an okay name. I wanted one that felt right. That rolled off the tongue. That was easy to spell. That had meaning. Eventually, naming showed up on the list of milestones that had to be accomplished in order to further the work. I wrangled all day, learned more about the domain drop process, bought some domains that were “good enough”. I went to bed glad to have chosen something, but still unsettled. I dreamed of standing in a crowd with names being called out to me. I felt happy! I liked them! In the morning, I checked the domains, I checked Google, I laughed at the simplicity. Limber Media, Inc. Now the fun is coming up with slick soundbites, right…? “, For anyone who is overextended.”

Limber Media is a nice, mellifluous name. There’s a poetically symmetrical pattern in the consonants, from alveolar (produced with the tongue behind the top front teeth) to bilabial nasal to bilabial stop and then back to bilabial nasal and then alveolar again. And see how the phonetic representation is so pale? That shows what high sonority this name has. There’s uninterrupted voicing–vibration of the vocal folds–when you say the name, and three of the five consonants are sonorants–they allow an unimpeded flow of air and do not introduce noisy turbulence to the speech signal. These qualities provide sound-symbolic support for the idea of limberness (or suppleness or flexibility or something like that).

How does limberness relate to online media editing? Limberness is of course a property of people, not web applications. But, if you think of the users of the application as limber, the implication is that they’re able to move and bend freely with no constraints imposed by their own bodies. This idea of unimpeded motion can apply metaphorically to any kind of human task, suggesting that it can be accomplished easily. The metaphor works similarly if it applies to a personification of the company or its web app. The idea of limberness also makes a nice connection between the company and its founder, who is a choreographer and dancer as well as a web entrepreneur. Limberness also evokes the more general concept of flexibility, which can apply to objects and materials as well as people. A flexible medium is one that is easily manipulated, so this is a very appropriate association for a media editing service and application.

Allegra’s naming experience illustrates an important point that The Name Inspector has been trying to get across to people lately. The names that are the most descriptive of a company–the ones that are the easiest to come up with–are often not the best ones. Going directly from the idea of the company to the name just doesn’t seem to be that effective. In successful naming efforts, what often happens is that a name idea comes from a dream or a random connection of some kind, and after the name presents itself, so to speak, it just seems to fit. Then, on reflection, one can see what accounts for that fit. This is why naming seems so simple but is actually so hard. Going from the company to the right name is an uphill climb, but getting from the name to the company is–or should be–a ride downhill.

Thanks for your story, Allegra, and good naming work!

[tags]LimberMedia, Limber Media, limber, flexible, editing, online editing, media[/tags]

6 Responses to “Naming Stories: Limber Media”

  1. [...] Christopher Johnson analyzes the linguistic components and symbolism of business names. In this post he responds favorably to the naming story of our on line video editing and archiving more | digg story add to social bookmarking sites: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. [...]

  2. on 11 Apr 2007 at 4:14 pm Allegra Searle-LeBel

    Christopher –

    I really enjoyed this analysis! I love seeing the visual representation of the phonetics and learning new words like “bilabial stop.” Thank you for taking naming to the next level. It seems that many people these days are coming up with many names, and I’m thrilled that you’re providing a resource for thinking about naming in interdisciplinary ways.


  3. on 11 Apr 2007 at 7:48 pm Rob Labossiere

    >getting from the name to the company is – or should be – a ride downhill.

    nicely put… tho’ naming doesn’t come so easily to many people, which is, I suppose, why we have agencies and consultants who specialize in it… naming often comes after the hard work of business and product development, indentifying needs and figuring out how to satisfy them, how to market your service/product, etc.

    A lot of people start out with a name. And most of them fail, for all the usual business, not naming, reasons.

    I like that Allegra (now there’s a great name!) was so thoughtful and patient with her naming process. Limber Media is a great name, Unexpectedly so, for limber is a “soft” word, unlike the more agressive, hard consonant-filled “flexible” or “flex”; it’s less competitive, suggesting “soft sell,” a kind of empathic approach, people you’d actually like to work with, kind of like personal trainers who help you limber up for the big race… it’s highly progressive business-wise.

    About Allegra’s “soundbite” though, I hope she goes into the dream state again. Slogans need the same amount of attention that naming does, though they work slightly differently.

    Taglines are often embellishments – catchy, clever, entertaining – but they also often introduce new information about what a company does, more than what might be embedded in the company name. Limber Media might be a company that does media for athletes, or athletic trainers, but it’s not, and a tagline might make that more clear.

    Allegra’s business model is something more than relieving overextended media producers. Even if that is, practically speaking, her main role, or how she feels about her role, or even how she likes to see herself (helping, healing), the tagline doesn’t relate to the limberness suggested by the company name. The word “limber” is so evocative, there’s a lot of potential there for all kinds of taglines that are both related and extending, as soft and lovely and inviting and healthy and positive as the company name itself.

  4. on 13 Apr 2007 at 12:09 pm Allegra Searle-LeBel

    In response to Rob’s suggestion that we rethink the tagline:

    This was simply the beginning of the process. Just as we took our time with naming, we’re actively reworking the tagline, logo, and additional branding creation. The tagline that I quipped to Christopher gave us something to play with, and something around which to gather responses from other people. I really appreciate your suggestion to go back to the “dream state” to expand the possibilities for expressing our business model. I think of our branding research as viral, partly because I enjoy the conversations that it can spark. Also, as someone who strives to realize the potential of language, the combination of creativity and specificity required to sucessfully represent one’s business is highly satisfying.

    Feel free to send any tagline and soundbite suggestions my way!

  5. on 18 Apr 2007 at 9:15 am The Name Inspector


    My apologies, your two comments got put in my Akismet spam folder for some reason. I’ll have to check that more often.

  6. on 19 Apr 2007 at 11:59 am Brian Laks

    I would play off the phonetics for future tagline/slogan possibilities.. a plethora of bilabial/alveolar ideas come to mind. A number of the synonyms for limber include that “p/b,l” combination. some words to chew on: able, capable, supple, adaptable, adapt, adept. I like the word “adapt”, especially when used as a command form. It’s also an ability I would want in a limber media company.

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply