When it absolutely, positively has to be a Frankenbrand: FedEx Kinko’s

Originally published May 7, 2007

Have you noticed that your local Kinko’s has become FedEx Kinko’s?

Kinko’s is known for having a laid-back corporate culture. Maybe a little too laid back. The Name Inspector once went to a 24-hour Kinko’s in Manhattan, and there was no one there. Not only were there no other customers, but there were no employees, either. The doors were open, the lights were on, the copy machines were humming, but nobody was home.

So The Name Inspector saw FedEx Kinko’s as a promising development. Those people at FedEx have to be on top of things. You know, when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight and all that. The Name Inspector pictured someone with the quasi-military efficiency coming in and whipping things into shape, like Tom Hanks in that terrible stranded-on-a-desert-island movie (early in the movie, when he was a FedEx exec–not later, when he was a crazy hairy guy talking to a volleyball).

Despite the differences in corporate culture, FedEx and Kinko’s are a natural match. For The Name Inspector at least, both places inspire a combination of love and queasy dread. Love because both places provide important services when you really, really need them. Dread because both places are associated with impending deadlines and procrastination.

Suppose you’ve traveled to a strange city–oh, say, Houston–to make a presentation, and you’ve misplaced your handout. OK, suppose you didn’t finish the handout before you left home. You need to find a place to print it out and make copies. Suppose it’s very late at night. When you find a twenty-four hour Kinko’s, your heart soars, because you know that everything will be alright. Love.

But then you actually go to the Kinko’s and start doing what needs to be done. It takes longer than you expected, because two copy machines are jammed, the other one is low on toner, and there’s nary a Kinko’s employee in sight. It’s getting later and later. Dread.

No doubt the reader can imagine stories about FedEx that, while different in their particulars, have a similar emotional resonance.

Despite their association with dread, FedEx and Kinko’s are a couple of iconic names. Understandably, the big cheeses of the new hybrid company could not part with the brand equity of either name. So they went for the easiest option–the only option, really: they stuck the two names together. The result is a monstrosity of a name that would never make it in the biz if its parents weren’t celebrities.

Might they have gone with a blend? Well, Finko’sKinkEx, and Fedinko’s are definitely memorable names, but those stodgy corporate types might have felt these options failed to project the appropriate image. On the other hand, they’re really no less dignified than Kinko’s–just less familiar. Kinko was, apparently, the nickname of the curly-haired founder, just in case you’re wondering where that gem came from.

Is the name FedEx Kinko’s a compound? No. A compound is made of two words but pronounced as one word. More specifically, it has the intonational properties of one word–most notably, only one of its syllables carries primary stress. In the name FedEx Kinko’s, both parts–FedEx and Kinko’s–have syllables that get full word-worthy stress. The first syllable of Kinko’s is emphasized a little more than the first syllable of FedEx, but that has to do with the phrasal status of this name.

The first part of this name, FedEx, is already a compound. Or rather, it’s what we at the old naming company used to call a clipped compound, or a clipcom, to use a term that demonstrates what it describes. A clipcom takes the first part of each of two words and sticks them together.

Did you know that the word taxicab comes from the words taximeter and cabriolet? That’s another clipcom.

Putting the clipcom FedEx in front of the name Kinko’s makes for a real mouthful. The pronunciation is awkward, especially with the x right in front of the k. Besides, the whole thing just feels wrong. It resembles a company name modifying a brand name, like Apple Macintosh or Oxo Good Grips, or a brand name modifying a generic term, like Northwest Airlines, but its meaning doesn’t seem to fit either of these familiar patterns.

But what are you gonna do? They had no choice, really. When you walk past your local copy store, you can still look up and see the familiar Kinko’s name. Now you just see FedEx right there with it, riding its ass and keeping it in line. And, of course, offering shipping services.

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