Originally published Sep 26, 2011
The Name Inspector was going to write a post about Qwikster, the terrible new name that Netflix has given to the movie-by-mail arm of its business. But really, what is there to say that Fritinancy hasn’t already said?
So The Name Inspector has turned to a lesser-known tacky misspelled name, Egnyte, which belongs to a Silicon Alley “Cloud File Server” startup. This is a name with a very clear rationale: based on the word ignite, easy to pronounce, short (it meets the persistent six-letters-max expectation for domain names), and available or acquirable as a .com domain name. The E-for-I substitution works phonetically here, as it does in the name Enertia, because there’s little if any distinction between the two vowels when they occur in an unemphasized syllable.
That’s all fine. Yet, this name is just so unappealing.
The Name Inspector is not opposed in principle to creative spelling. But there are better and worse ways to do it. Creative spelling should have a little subtlety and/or flair. It should be almost unnoticeable, as in the name Flickr, or it should be motivated by wordplay, as in the name Automattic, or it should be efficient and phonetically apt, as in the name Pipl (which is almost how the word people is spelled in the International Phonetic Alphabet), or it should be odd in a way that’s cute or comical, as in the name Digg. Egnyte comes closest to falling into the last camp, because it’s odd, but it lacks humor. Somehow individual vowel substitutions just aren’t funny. Unless they involve umlauts.
The Name Inspector doesn’t presume to know exactly how the people at Egnyte
came up with their name. But he suspects they used this common technique: pick a real word and keep respelling it until you find an available domain name. That’s one of the least imaginative ways to do it.