Put a Z on it

Originally published Aug 13, 2015

The letter Z has a magical quality. OK, that might be going a little overboard. Let’s just say Z is a bit of a novelty in the Latin alphabet, a relative latecomer that was originally used only in words borrowed from Greek.

People just love Z, with its dynamic zig-zag and zippy sound. That’s why you can take a perfectly ordinary word, replace its first letter with Z, and zap! you’ve got a company name. The Name Inspector first noticed this as an actual trend when he encountered the food website named Zomato. This is unmistakably the word tomato with the initial T replaced by a Z. And there’s absolutely no reason for this gratuitous substitution aside from the fact that Z is awesome.

Now The Name Inspector is noticing more names like this. Of course, you’ve got the occasional Z-for-S substitution that you find in names likes ZiteZervantZolvers, and Zycamore. But that has a phonetic basis: Z is just S with vibrating vocal folds. The Name Inspector is talking about more random uses of Z. Like Zirtual. And Zazzle. And Zattoo.

It’s possible that this naming technique has been influenced by the name Zillow. But the thing about Zillow is that it could be from pillow or willow or, perhaps, neither of those words. There’s definitely a hint of another word, but you can’t put your finger on it.

There are also really cool names that start with Z but do not come from a single word. Like, say, Zulily, just to take an arbitrary example.

The Name Inspector is thinking specifically of the random replacement of an initial letter with Z. As in Zicaso. And Zuman. And Zilliant. (The Name Inspector is assuming this comes from the word brilliant. So in this case it’s not the initial letter that’s replaced but more precisely *adjusts glasses geekily* the initial onset.) And Zankyou.

As letters go, Z just has a certain style. Everybody wants a piece of Z.

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