Meet Mary Christmas


That’s Brian Christmas in the background…I think you get the picture.

According to Ancestry.com:

The surname Christmas originated in Wales, sometimes given to people born on Christmas Day.There are 89 people named Mary Christmas in the U.S. [no mention Wales or elsewhere on this one].

Other Christmas-related names on U.S. Public Records include: Jack Frost, Santa Claus, Santa Helper, Carol Christmas, On Christmas and Christmas House.

Other names found in the U.S. Public Records include: Xmas Alley, Past Xmas, Eve Xmas, Kris Kringle, Snow Ball, Snow Flakes, Saint Nicholas, Rudolph Reindeer and Ginger Bread [I think I knew a stripper named Snowball].

There is no Frosty the Snowman, but 1,700 individuals show up with the surname Snowman in the census records [1700 Snowmen and not a Frosty among them? …wimps].

Christmas is also a popular first name, according to census records. These include Christmas Joy, Christmas Day, Christmas Week, Christmas Coal, Christmas Cane, Merry Christmas Kellogg and Christmas December.

That’s it for Christmas – Happy Seasonal Tides and Greetings!

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Scratch and Sniff Marketing

Have a listen to Weekend America’s piece: Forget Ads, What’s Your Brand?, which chronicles the unconventionally successful marketing approach of Hollister Co., the $1.4B annual sales boost for parent Abercrombie and Fitch.

Almost every Saturday, 15-year-old Emily Erickson is at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. Most of its 500 stores don’t interest her, except Hollister, a clothing store for teens. Hollister is odd. It’s dark, with music so loud you can’t hear yourself shop. The air is filled with a deep citrus scent that stays on your clothes for hours. But Emily loves it and keeps coming back. Hollister’s “brand” invites her to become part of a particular tribe, and to show her allegiance by wearing its clothes. It’s part of the way that branding has taken over from traditional advertising. We hear from brand designer Joe Duffy about the concept of “brand” for clothes, kids and even countries.

…So Emily and Hollister have found each other. It’s not just about cute clothes. It’s about being part of group, your tribe, the people who care about the things that you care about, who think about the things you think about. Duffy says this has been part of a massive change in marketing. It’s becoming easier and easier to ignore and even avoid ads, so they have to speak to you in other ways.

A kinder, gentler brainwash? I can’t help thinking of Kramer’s beach scented cologne.
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Managing Your Individual Brand

Big Brother is watching you.

You knew that.

But how about all the little brothers and cousins googling you from time to time?

“Everyone is an individual brand — the ‘you’ brand. If managed incorrectly, this can have negative consequences when it comes to getting a job, advancing your career or maintaining a positive reputation…” more….

So, can you remove unwanted search results about yourself from the search engines? It may be possible and there are steps you can take, but according to Leo Notenboom (Ask-Leo.com) it is pretty much a lost cause.

Think carefully then about profile information you attach to yourself online; screen names, interests, etc. If you jokingly listed a serial killer as personal hero in a forum profile several years ago or even if you gave yourself your a seemingly innocuous screen name like Skaterdude at some point, the information remains and can influence how a potential employer, co-worker, customer, mate, etc., might perceive you.

Be careful with your brand kids. It’s the only one you’ve got.

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Centrifugal Deforest

I started a new blog, Centrifugal Deforest – Stock Market at a Lance. It will update each market day and is focused on the upcoming bear market in the US; whenever it comes; this year, next year or sometime in your grandchildren’s grandchildren’s future – I will be there.

The name doesn’t really refer to the stock market – hell, it doesn’t refer to the stock market in the least. And apparently I am breaking all the finer rules for smart blog-naming. So, perhaps the name is clunky, meaningless and impossible to remember.

Actually, it is not totally meaningless. Centrifugal Deforest was the term that sprang to mind some years back when I heard the pseudo-scientific theory that the Earth’s rotation is beginning to accelerate as the world’s tall trees come down. Exactly the way the ice skater spins faster and faster as the arms are brought inward.

So until I am forced to re-name, like virtually every project in the past, I’m sticking with it.

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Where did Alibaba, the brand name, come from?

AlibabaEarlier this year, the International Herald Tribune put the spotlight on Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba.com:

“I’m a normal guy,” he said during a recent interview in Singapore. “I feel ashamed because I feel I’m stealing the contribution of my team. They made it; my job is more, ‘Let’s go do it.'”

Started in 1999, Alibaba International is now the world’s largest online business-to-business marketplace, with more than 500,000 people visiting the site every day and 2.5 million registered users from more than 200 countries. By targeting small and midsize companies, the site, for example, allows a mom-and-pop toy maker in China to sell directly to a shopkeeper in San Francisco.

Meanwhile, Alibaba China has become the largest Chinese-language business-to-business marketplace with around 14 million registered users. The privately held company does not reveal its financial data. However, Alibaba’s deals with Yahoo in 2005 — in which Yahoo took a 40 percent stake in Alibaba, while folding its own China business into Alibaba’s — valued the Chinese company at about $3 billion at the time, said Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group in Shanghai.

Today, it was announced that Alibaba.com Ltd., operator of China’s largest trading Web site for companies, and its parent may raise as much as HK$10.3 billion ($1.3 billion) in a Hong Kong initial public offering that attracted investors including Yahoo! Inc., according to this Bloomberg article.

So, you might be asking, “Is this where the forty thieves come in?” alluding to the tale of The Thousand and One Nights. We’ll leave that for the financial analysts to consider. But what of the brand? Is it not counter-intuitive for a trading company to choose a name that might be associated with thieves? More about that later, but first: where did Alibaba, the brand name, come from? On a company forum on the Internet, we found this discussion quoting an interview with Alibaba.com’s CEO, Jack Ma:

LH – Now Alibaba… Fancy name, catchy too! But it conjures up, at least to me, something to do with thieves, not legitimate business. Why Alibaba?

JM – One day I was in San Francisco in a coffee shop, and I was thinking Alibaba is a good name. And then a waitress came, and I said do you know about Alibaba? And she said yes. I said what do you know about Alibaba, and she said ‘Open Sesame.’ And I said yes, this is the name! Then I went onto the street and found 30 people and asked them, ‘Do you know Alilbaba’? People from India, people from Germany, people from Tokyo and China… They all knew about Alibaba. Alibaba — open sesame. Alibaba — 40 thieves. Alibaba is not a thief. Alibaba is a kind, smart business person, and he helped the village. So…easy to spell, and global know. Alibaba opens sesame for small- to medium-sized companies. We also registered the name AliMama, in case someone wants to marry us!

Alibaba is a provocation.

Many of the best names are provocations: Virgin, Yahoo, Caterpillar, Fannie Mae, Gap, Banana Republic, Crossfire. To qualify as a provocation, a name must contain what most people would call “negative messages” for the goods and services the name is to represent.

Fortunately, consumers process these negative messages positively. As long as the name maps to one of the positioning points of the brand, consumers never take its meaning literally, and the negative aspects of the name just give it greater depth.

Nothing is more powerful than taking a word with a strong, specific connotation, grabbing a slice of it, mapping that slice to a portion of your positioning, and therefore redefining it. This naming strategy is without question the most powerful one of all.

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Coining words and the caprice in names

Great little article about word coinage and naming by Steven Pinker in last Sunday’s Los Angeles Times, How do we come up with words? Here is a morsel, about the viral nature of baby names and the human tendency to want to be different, but not too different:

Many people assume these fads are inspired by celebrities (Marilyn Monroe made Marilyn popular) or social trends (biblical names are popular during religious revivals; androgynous names are a legacy of feminism). But sociologist Stanley Lieberson has pored through naming data and disproved every one of these hypotheses. The cause of baby names is other baby names. Parents have an ear for names that are a bit distinctive (as if to follow Sam Goldwyn’s advice not to name your son William because every Tom, Dick and Harry is named William) without being too distinctive (only celebrities can get away with naming their children Moon Unit or Banjo). The trends arise when everyone tries to be moderately distinctive and ends up being moderately distinctive in the same way.

I love that advice from Sam Goldwyn. And that bit about everyone trying to be distinctive but ending up being “moderately distinctive in the same way” reminds me of the clusters of like names we see in nearly every industry. Take SUV names, for instance, where all the automakers tend to promote a “rugged individualist” theme, then serve up the same kind of names for their vehicles, often named to evoke either the idea of exploration — Blazer, Discovery, Expedition, Navigator, Safari, Scout, Tracker, Trooper — or of a mythic rugged western pioneer landscape — Montana, Rainier, Santa Fe, Sequoia, Sonoma, Tacoma, Tahoe, Yukon. So all of you rugged individualists out there looking express your distinctiveness through your choice of ride, these big beasts of cars are betraying that ideal by blending their names in with each other.

Also fascinating in this article is the idea that naming trends cannot be reliably predicted or engineered, because they are dependent upon the behavior of the masses, and that behavior is chaotic:

Pundits often treat a culture as if it were a superorganism that pursues goals and finds meaning, just like a person. But the fortunes of words, a cultural practice par excellence, don’t fit that model. Names change with the times, yet they don’t fulfill needs, don’t reflect other social trends and aren’t driven by role models or Madison Avenue. A “trend” is shorthand for the aggregate effects of millions of people making decisions while anticipating and reacting to the decisions made by others, and these dynamics can be stubbornly chaotic.

This unpredictability holds a lesson for our understanding of culture more generally. Like the words in a language, the practices in a culture — every fashion, ritual, common belief — must originate with an innovator, must then appeal to the innovator’s acquaintances and then to the acquaintance’s acquaintances, until it becomes endemic to a community. The caprice in names suggests we should be skeptical of most explanations for other mores and customs.

Yes. Beware of “expert” opinion that labors to convince you that “scientific” explanations — linguistics, focus groups, trend analysis — trumps good old fashioned meaning, story, history, mythology, poetry, rhythm, and shared knowledge when considering names for companies, products, or services. Anything else is just putting ketchup on a potato bug.

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100 Venezuelan Baby Names?


The children of the Vargas family: Kleiderman Jesús, Yureimi Klaymar, Yusneidi Alicia, Yusmary Shuain, Kleiderson Klarth and Yusmery Sailing.

Goodbye, Tutankamen del Sol.

So long, Hengelberth, Maolenin,Kerbert Krishnamerk, Githanjaly, Yornaichel, Nixon and Yurbiladyberth. The prolifically inventive world of Venezuelan baby names may be coming to an end.

If electoral officials here get their way, a bill introduced last week would prohibit Venezuelan parents from bestowing those names — and many, many others — on their children.

The bill’s ambition, according to a draft submitted to municipal offices here for review, is to “preserve the equilibrium and integral development of the child” by preventing parents from giving newborns names that expose them to ridicule or are “extravagant or hard to pronounce in the official language,” Spanish.

The measure would not be retroactive. But it would limit parents of newborns to a list of 100 names established by the government, with exemptions for Indians and foreigners, and it is already facing skepticism in the halls of the National Assembly.

More…

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Banding and Branding


Couples Cast Off Their Surnames for Original Ones:

“We wanted a name that meant something,” said Jeff Sharlein, a social worker. “In many ways we are unconventional and our families see this as an unconventional choice.”

More people than ever before are looking for unique ways to express their identity, according to Pamela Redmond Satran, co-author of the “Baby Name Bible.” Her dictionary documents 50,000 names from nouns or colors or even video game characters. “Statistically, fewer and fewer people are using one of the Top 10 names,” she said.

“Everybody is looking for a name that has a lot of personal meaning,” said Satran, who took her husband’s name, but keeps her maiden name as a middle name. “It’s the conscious power of branding and leads people to appropriate a name in a different way. You are not just stuck with and limited to the usual suspects.”

In both first names and surnames, couples now have the freedom to “search and choose the name that really feels like you and really stands for the individual you think you are,” said Satran. “It embodies values, history and image. Naming your family is not unlike naming a company.”

The preceding message was brought to you by Quark Savage…

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Birth of a buzzword: Bacn

This item from today’s New York Times “What’s Online” column, Click if You Read This Column:

Saving Your Bacn Over the last week, a new Web 2.0 buzzword was born: “bacn.” Bacn is not spam; rather, it refers to messages — e-mail newsletters, Facebook friend requests, Twitter updates and the like — that are wanted but not needed. “Notifications you want. But not right now,” is the blogger Andy Quayle’s succinct definition (techburgh.com).

By most accounts, the term was coined — or at least gained traction — during last weekend’s PodCamp Pittsburgh event (podcamppittsburgh.com).

On his blog, Eric Skiff offers possible solutions, which amount to smart e-mail filtering and personal discipline. “Once or twice a day while I’m taking a ‘brain break’ I’ll flip through my labels and take care of any pending friend requests, comments, and any other bacn that’s come in during the day,” he writes (glitchnyc.com).

Already, a Web site, bacn2.com, has appeared to help “spread awareness” of bacn and to help people cope.

As bacn proliferates, it will likely become the new spam, making the whole idea of “bringing home the bacn” much less appealing.

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In God We Trust

On July 30, 1956, the President approved a joint resolution of Congress declaring In God We Trust the national motto of the United States. The words had been used on some American coins before that date but not on all currency, and not without objection. According to a Wikipedia article, Theodore Roosevelt strongly disapproved of the idea of evoking God within the context of a “cheap” political motto. In a letter to William Boldly on November 11, 1907, President Roosevelt wrote: “My own feeling in the matter is due to my very firm conviction that to put such a motto on coins, or to use it in any kindred manner, not only does no good but does positive harm, and is in effect irreverence, which comes dangerously close to sacrilege … it seems to me eminently unwise to cheapen such a motto by use on coins, just as it would be to cheapen it by use on postage stamps, or in advertisements.”

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The Band — No Use For A Name

NO USE FOR A NAME are a four-piece punk rock band from San Jose, CA, and have been the torchbearers of the skate-punk scene since Tony Sly and Rory Koff started the band in 1987. Anyway, they’ve got a greatest hits album coming out on the Fat Wreck Chords label in a couple of weeks, appropriately titled “All the Best Songs” which they will be promoting, no doubt, in an upcoming concert in their hometown at a club called — drumroll please — The Blank Club. “Keep Them Confused” is the name of the latest record by the band.

Other bands, that might have a use for a name, should check out Wordlab’s great legacy list of names for rock bands and albums, or tap into the fleshy membranes that lurk here on Worldab thinking up wild and wonderful band name maker.

And, when all is said and done, this just might be the greatest name for a band, ever.

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The Best Free Naming Website, Bar None

Wordlab got some good press the other day, in the Lifestyle section of the Hartford Courant. Here’s an excerpt that talks about the excellent ideas for names of bars and clubs generated by some of the creative minds that lurk in the Wordlab Forums.

Some club owners look for name advice online. The website www.wordlab.com offers a forum for entrepreneurs seeking monikers for everything from hot-dog carts to big-city nightclubs.

“I am opening a new club in Ohio, and I can’t come up with a catchy name. … It will be mostly Top 40 dance music with some older stuff thrown in, and of course requests! Can you help?” a seeker with the Web handle TamaraLynn wrote.

Responses included “Shut Up And Dance,” “Galaxy Club” and “Frequency.”

Sixtoemoe wanted a name for a club focused on soul music. Responses included “Soul Survivor,” “Bought and Souled,” “Souled Out” and “Soul Beneficiary.”

Posters on the site have to weed through some attempted humor. To a person seeking a name for a restaurant and bar in Portland, Maine’s art district, for example, a responder offered “Chez Snooty.” Another regular on the site has repeatedly offered “Alcohol & Archery” as a name for a variety of clubs and bars.

Some people do get solutions from the site. The owner of a small bar near a cemetery in Portland, Ore., was offered “The Dead End,” “Dead Zone,” “Plotz” and “Spirits,” among other names. The owner wrote back, “Thanks, we went with Spirits! Great idea.”

Several responders urged owners and managers seeking names to keep them simple. A poster with the web handle Intellishag sought suggestions for a martini bar that would play “chill-out and sexy music” for “sexy young people.”

A poster with the forum name, Elemental, responded, “Think ‘short and sweet,’ ” and suggested several signposts, including “Clean,” “Steel,” “Chrome,” “Velvet” and “Mink.”

Logos and illustrations paired with a name add another layer of style and statement. One of Connecticut’s best known music spots, Toad’s Place in New Haven, uses the image of the well-dressed Victorian Mr. Toad from “Wind in the Willows.”

Toad’s Place owner Brian Phelps says the name was derived from a restaurant “named after a toad or a frog that matched with the French restaurant theme” the original partners envisioned for the place in 1975. The Mr. Toad logo was added later, Phelps says.

Manning, the naming consultant, cites Toad’s Place as a name that stands out amid a crowd of bars and club names that sound like perfume labels.

“There are thousands and thousands of clubs that have edgy, in-your-face names like ‘Ecstasy’ and ‘Opium’ – something sexually suggestive,” he says. “You actually tend not to notice. That’s not pushing the envelope. Something like Toad’s is in the other direction. You actually remember it.”

Remember, Wordlab is the best free naming and branding site on the web, bar none, and we challenge anyone to do better for less.

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What Brand Means

“The link between brands and trust is strong,” says Charles Green, co-author of The Trusted Advisor, in the first Carnival of Trust at his blog, Trust Matters. There, Charlie points us to a recent post by Sun’s CEO Jonathan Schwartz, who writes this about what brand means:

The saying goes, “a brand is a promise.” On a personal level, I’ve always felt that statement was incomplete. A promise is the lowest common denominator of a brand – it’s what people expect. Think of your favorite brand, whether search engine or sneaker or coffee shop or free software, and you’ll know what I mean – a brand is an expectation. If you experience anything less, you’re disappointed. A promise seems like table stakes.

But a brand must go beyond a promise. To me, a brand is a cause – a guiding light. For fulfilling expectations, certainly, as well as dealing with the ill-defined and unexpected.

Read more here at Jonathan’s Blog.

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From Milan to Microsoft Surface

There’s a fundamental change occurring in the world of technology. Code-named Milan, a new computer has surfaced at Microsoft. Surface.

“Pretty exciting, eh?” Gates said with a sly smile, when he put his hand down on what looked initially like a low, black coffee table: At the touch of his hand, the hard, plastic tabletop suddenly dissolved into what looked like tiny ripples of water. The ‘water’ responded to each of his fingers and the ripples rushed quickly away in every direction.

“Go ahead,” he said. “Try it.” When I placed my hand on the table at the same time, there were more ripples.

It took a moment to appreciate what was happening. Every hand motion Gates or I did was met with an immediate response from the table. There was no keyboard. There was no mouse. Just our gestures.

“All you have to do is reach out and touch the Surface,” Gates told me with barely concealed pride. “And it responds to what you do.”

In an industry whose bold pronouncements about the future have taught me the benefits of skepticism, Surface took my breath away. If the Surface project rollout goes as planned in November, it could alter the way everyday Americans control the technology that currently overwhelms many of us.

But does it come with Pong?

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