Originally published May 24, 2007
Most company names consist of just one or two meaningful parts. That makes sense, because brevity is important in a name for several reasons: memorability, simplicity of pronunciation, ease of writing and typing, and graphic compactness in a logo.
So crowded is the space of names, however, that people have been forced into three-meaningful-part territory. The first example that springs to mind is MyBlogLog, the source of that widget at the bottom of The Name Inspector’s sidebar. (By the way, if you’re a MyBlogLog user, you’re hereby invited to join The Name Inspector’s community.) If you shortened this name to MyBlog or BlogLog, you’d have something that fits a common naming pattern: MyBlog is like MySpace or YouTube, and BlogLog is like SmugMug or TagJag. With MyBlogLog, however, there’s kind of a lot going on. Technically it’s a phrase name, but the way it’s written, without any spaces, is an invitation to pronounce it as a single word. And that’s kind of kind of tricky. Which syllable do you emphasize? If you pronounce the name as a phrase, you probably emphasize both my and blog. If you pronounce the name as a single word, you probably de-emphasize either my or blog. But the result sounds kind of hurried and squished together, doesn’t it?
One of the clunkiest three-part names The Name Inspector has encountered recently is Side Job Track. Again, just Side Job or Job Track would be a very normal-sounding name (well, Side Job sounds vaguely lewd to those of us whose minds wander in that direction). But Side Job Track? With this name the natural phrasal pronunciation is not even available. You have to break it down as a compound that contains a compound–most likely side job + track. If you go with this analysis, you emphasize Side, kind of mumble out Job, and may or may not place any emphasis on Track. It just doesn’t flow.
Matters are complicated further by the fact that track can be a noun or a verb. It’s most natural to interpret the last word of a multi-word name as a noun, but if you do that you make a confusing connection to the phrase job track (like career track), which isn’t as clearly relevant as the idea of tracking side jobs. So this name is kind of a jumble.
That’s not to say Side Job Track isn’t a great service. The Name Inspector has been using it to keep track of billable hours and do invoices for consulting jobs, and while there are a few kinks to work out, it has a really nice set of features. Check it out.
While he’s on this topic, The Name Inspector must give a nod of grudging respect to Bare Escentuals, the San Francisco-based cosmetics company. Here’s a pun name with four meaningful parts (not including the morphological breakdown of essentials) that actually kind of flows. Built on the phrase bare essentials, it pulls off a double pun, tweaking essentials so that it evokes both the words scent and sensual. In the Olympic sport of naming, this one gets a good but not great score for artistry and extremely high marks for difficulty.