Originally published Jul 13, 2010
Sometimes a certain naming concept comes into vogue. In some cases, such as the post-Napster trend for names ending in –ster, or the more recent boom in names ending in –dango, the phenomenon can be traced to an original name that inspires imitators. In other cases, there seems to be more of a Zeitgeist effect–the naming concept is so timely that it gets discovered again and again. So it seems to be with names ending in –vine.
Have you noticed how many of these there are? In the TechCrunch index you can find Bridgevine, CrowdVine, Newsvine, Snapvine (now defunct), and SwingVine Inc. Other names The Name Inspector has come across include Comic Vine, LeadVine, Loudvine, PlaceVine, Racevine, RiotVine, Sandvine, and Widevine.
So what’s up? The Name Inspector believes that the –vine ending has become popular because it simultaneously meets four naming challenges, two more or less universal and two specific to web-based “connecting” tools such as communication services, aggregators, and social networks.
The first universal challenge is to find a name that evokes an appealing visual image. Vines are lovely, with their curly stems and foliage, and make a great visual design motif. The second is to find a word that combines well. Vine is great because it’s a single syllable with no clusters of multiple consonants.
Another more specific challenge is to evoke the idea of connection in a fresh way, avoiding words such as net and link. A vine makes a great visual metaphor for a network, with the leaves representing nodes and the stems representing edges. This metaphor is strengthened by the idiom “to hear something through the grapevine”, which uses the vine image to represent a network of friends and acquaintances.
The remaining challenge is to hint at the “organic” nature of social networks and crowdsourced recommendations and rankings–the way they grow through the complex actions of many people, not according to someone’s grand design. A vine is of course a plant, in keeping with the metaphor we evoke when we use the word organic that way.
The vine, thanks to its simple name, lovely appearance, and metaphorical potential, has flourished as a natural choice for namers. But has it perhaps begun to wilt?