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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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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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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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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Top Secret Military Operations Named

The New York Times has been accused of leaking top secret sources and methods in the GWOT.

It has long been suspected that the Pentagon taps into Wordlab to find good names for military operations. Some of the potential names for military ops may have been compromised when they were posted on the Internet here.

Others claim that names for military operations are developed by language machines, like the American Military Operation Name Generating Device or the Military Codename Generator.

The best names, however, like Operation Mountain Thrust, can only be conceived by the human mind, and are kept top secret until the operations are underway and it is safe to issue a press release.

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Meaning and origin of the Foo Fighters band name

Many of you techno geeks know all about “foo”, or think you do, when “used very generally as a sample name for absolutely anything, esp. programs and files (esp. scratch files)”, to quote the <a href=”http://catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/F/foo.html”>Jargon File</a>. But what about the Foo Fighters?

Dave Grohl, formally a drummer with the likes of Freak Baby, Mission Impossible, Fast, Dain Bramage, Scream and a little-known band called Nirvana, now fronts Foo Fighters. But what’s with the name?  The Jargon File entry continues:

<blockquote>
One place “foo” is known to have remained live is in the U.S. military during the WWII years. In 1944-45, the term ‘foo fighters’ was in use by radar operators for the kind of mysterious or spurious trace that would later be called a UFO (the older term resurfaced in popular American usage in 1995 via the name of one of the better grunge-rock bands). Because informants connected the term directly to the Smokey Stover strip, the folk etymology that connects it to French “feu” (fire) can be gently dismissed.
</blockquote>

For more on Foo and the Smokey Stover comic strip <a href=”http://catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/F/foo.html”>go here</a>. If this post has whet your curiosity and you’d like to know the origins and meanings behind other band names like Goo Goo Dolls and Pearl Jam, these are sticky questions and you’re on your own. This is a family program and we mean to keep our PG rating. Sort of.

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Mercedes and alphanumeric car names

Oh Lord won’t you buy me a AMG Coupe CLK 55: Mercedes has long named their car models using alphanumerics. It’s a system we’ve commented on before that is used by most luxury automotive brands (save Rolls Royce) designed to direct the bulk of brand equity to the Mercedes brand name rather than to a particular model. It’s very effective when you need consumers to remember three basic concepts and one or two specialty offshoots. Audi and BMW get there with the 4|6|8 and 3|5|7 designations, respectively.

Mercedes, however, is trying to get consumers to associate alphanumeric labels with nine-plus different ideas.

The bare basics are: C-Class, E-Class, S-Class, CLK-Class, CL-Class, SLK-Class, SL-Class, M-Class, G-Class, with a sprinkling of AMGs, SLRs, CDIs and MLs tossed-in where needed for greater obfuscation. And those are just the alpha vegetables in the alphanumeric soup.

Here is the whole 36-car pile up: C230 Kompressor Sport Coupe, C230 Kompressor Sport Sedan, C240 Luxury Sedan, C240 Luxury Wagon, C320 Sport Coupe, C320 Luxury Sedan, C320 Sport Sedan, C55 AMG, E320 Sedan, E320 CDI, E320 Wagon, E500 Sedan, E500 4MATIC Wagon, E55 AMG, S430 Sedan, S500 Sedan, S55 AMG, S600 Sedan, CLK320 Coupe, CLK320 Cabriolet,CLK500 Coupe, CLK500 Cabriolet, CLK55 AMG Coupe, CLK55 AMG Cabriolet, CLS500 Coupe, CLS55 AMG, CL500 Coupe, CL55, AMG CL600, Coupe, CL65 AMG, SLK 350 Roadster, SLK55 AMG Roadster, SL500 Roadster, SL55 AMG, SL600 Roadster, SL65 AMG, ML350 SUV, ML350 SUV Special Edition, ML500 SUV, ML500 SUV Special Edition, G500 SUV, G55 AMG, and SLR McLaren 4MATIC.

The vehicles are priced between $25,850 and $452,750, and the names do nothing towards differentiating one from the other; so bye-bye “envy” sales factor. Why pay a hundred and fifty big ones for a car that everyone thinks cost thirty? That’s no fun.

Cadillac, in its quest to muscle Mercedes aside has jumped into the fray with the vehicle “names” ESV, EXT, ETS, SRX and XLR, basking in the image mingling.

The only people crazy enough to learn and love the distinctions between the Mercedes C-Class, E-Class, S-Class, CLK-Class, CL-Class, SLK-Class, SL-Class, M-Class, G-Class, AMG, SLR, CDI and ML spend the remainder of their time playing “Prince of Persia, Warrior Within” on the Xbox and aren’t likely to purchase a car without parental consent.

Here is how some of the hairs are split:

C-Class Overview
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class offers more value and choice than ever before with the most models and body styles to choose from, and MSRPs starting under $30,000.

E-Class Overview
Offering European sophistication and performance, the exhilarating Mercedes-Benz E-Class combines the best of sedan luxury with the comfort of a wagon.

S-Class Overview
The premier luxury sedan in the world, the S-Class is the unparalleled expression of elegance, technological innovation, charismatic styling and pure driving pleasure.

CLK-Class Overview
Available in both luxury convertible and pillarless coupe models, the CLK-Class is one of the world’s most desirable and exhilarating forms of pure driving pleasure.

CLS-Class Overview
The CLS-Class redefines what a coupe can be. It offers expressive style, poised performance, a 4-seat cabin, but with four doors.

CL-Class Overview
The CL-Class is not just a distinctive and exclusive leader in the luxury coupe market. With its intense performance and refined style, it demands to be driven.

SLK-Class Overview
From its muscular stance inspired by Formula One racing to its athletic performance, the SLK-Class roadster delivers aggressive sports car styling and an exhilarating driving experience

SL-Class Overview
The Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is the latest incarnation of an unmatched automotive legacy, combining unrivaled technological excellence, passionate performance and timeless elegance into flawless perfection.

M-Class Overview
The M-Class is an ever-ready companion whose exemplary design, comprehensive safety features and unmatched versatility make it perfect for active and adventurous lifestyles.

On the edge of your seat for the Mercedes definitions behind G-Class, AMG, SLR, CDI and ML? Of course not — it’s too much work and there’s no reward — two things luxury should never be.

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Blog Name Generator

Mike Morgan, is having a blog-identity crisis. His weblog is suffering with the insufferable name I-Tach.

Being a lurker around Wordlab from time to time, Mike turned to our massive archives for fresh ideas and found a short list of names he thinks might work. And he was nice enough to give credit to Wordlab for these ideas; so we’re giving him space here to bring his problem to the attention of those best equipped to give him the free naming and branding input he desperately needs.

November 29, 2004

Your Input, Please: Blog Identity Crisis

I’m stuck and seek your wise counsel, dear readers…

A couple months ago, I wanted to start a blog. I didn’t think I’d be able to write enough interesting content to maintain a “general interest” blog. I didn’t think my life was interesting enough (and I have a tough time opening up emotionally) to write a “diary blog”. And a “link blog”, well, that’s just plain boring. So when I started the I-Tach Weblog, my idea was for it to be “specialty blog” centered around emergency department nursing — E.D. war stories, nursing tips and tricks, E.D. and nursing humor, et cetera and so on.

Well, guess what? My ocean of unique E.D. knowledge turned out to be more like a wading pool of knowledge. I shot that wad quickly. [Insert hokey, overdone ‘frown’ smiley here]

Instead, I found myself writing political and current events commentary, offering a tutorial on making the world’s best fake fart noise, posting humorous stuff I’ve found, and even starting to talk about a few personal items such as my adoption or our family dog getting hit by a car earlier this month.

So now I’m stuck and need your help.

December 14, 2004

Your Input, Please: New Blog Name

Thanks to your input, I’m currently rewriting the template and style for the blog. I’ll also be changing the name… I think “I-Tach” is funny as Hell, but I’ve slowly realized that it’s pretty much an inside joke, lost on most visitors.

Call me a lemming, but I like blogs with titles that make me grin. So I stopped by one of my favorite-but-only-occasionally-visited sites, WordLab, in search of inspiration. As a writer and famous-in-my-own-mind funny guy, several phrases caught my eye. Some have the potential to be a nifty blog name, some are simply punny.

So here are the phrases that I jotted down to use as inspiration for a name…

The Babble Belt
Textual Relations
Birth of a Notion
Blarney Rubble
Peanut Buddha and Jesus
Peek-A-Buddha
Capital Punmanship
Carmel Knowledge
Consummate Confessional
Cup and Chaucer
Devastating the Obvious
Flying Chaucer
English as a Fecund Language
Just Say Know
Just a Flash in the Pants
New World Odor
Grump Up The Volume
Leaves of Crass
Duct Tape and Cover
Lingo Weenie
Jack Of All Tirades
Know Way, Know How
A Norse is a Norse (of course, of course)

What do y’all think? I see potential in a couple of these, others are just too funny to let go unpublicized. Do you have another name suggestion? The name I’m working with during the redesign is A Cacophany of Miscellany, which I think is a pretty good fit with the [Fill In Your Opinion of My Writing Here] I post.

Then again, I may throw all this to the wind and go out on a limb naming it Mike Morgan in anticipation of my inevitable fame and fortune!

If you’ve got any good blog name ideas for Mike, just wander over to his weblog and add your two cents worth there.

As good as the archive lists and Forums are at Wordlab, Mike and others like him who are really stuck for a great blog name might also want to try the Band & Song Name Generator. This tool from the Musician’s Friend can be a very creative blog name regurgitator when put to the task. Here are a few more suggestions worthy of consideration:

Pleasurable Blog
Victoria’s Secretions
Red Flour
Frozen Boyfriend
Land of the Blog
Blog of the Impossible
Blog of the Tangerine
Resisting Blog
Nurse King of the Pleasurable Drool
Nipple of the Farting Earth
Eighth of the Blog
Goggles Blog
Filthy Blog
Nice Blog
Blog Flab
Blog Raspberry
Nurse Parakeet
Malignant Nurse
Rubber Nurse
Screaming Nurse
Blog Juniper
Social Blog
Blog Defaulted
Blog Mistress
Wet Nurse

Thanks to web sifter extraordinaire John Walkenbach for figuring this creative application would be great for generating blog names.

Check out Wordlab’s extensive collection of Name Generators next time you need a name for your blog or anything else.

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Automotive naming by numbers

The naming convention recently announced by Intel for its new processors is similar to that of carmaker BMW, which is acknowledged by Intel. In fact, it is reported that Intel discussed its plans with BMW before adopting the new naming by numbers, “with an eye to respecting another company’s intellectual property.”

But BMW is not the only automobile manufacturer that uses “numerology” to brand its marques. Perhaps no automotive brand has a more established tradition of using a numerical sequence to distinguish its models than does Peugeot. As far back as 1929, the French automaker began this regimen with the introduction of the Peugeot 201 at the Paris Auto Show. Since then, they’ve brought these memorable cars to market: 201, 301, 401, 601, 302, 402, 202, 203, 403, 404, 204, 504, 304, 104, 604, 305, 505, 205, 309, 405, 905, 605, 106, 306, 206, 406, 806, 607, 307, 807, and the 407. As might be evident to those trained in branding by numbers, all of these models have the distinctive 0 strategically placed in the center of the model number. Some consider it a “signature” of the famous brand.

The 3-digit identity is an essential component of Peugeot’s brand identity. Conveying a very positive image for the company, the system evokes quality, technology and performance. Approved by customers around the world, this numbering system operates as a sign of recognition and makes it easy to differentiate between models in the range: a central zero with a number on either side. It has not changed since the launch of the 201, and provides three items of information about the model concerned:

The first number indicates the family to which the vehicle belongs, its size in the range. The second digit — always 0 — is the link between the number denoting membership of a particular family and that denoting a particular generation. The third figure indicates the generation of the model.

[source: For Peugeot, Numbers are Sacred…]

Logical, yes; memorable, no. To naming and branding mavericks, it might seem that the Peugeot brand is stuck in some sort of rut. But that’s hardly the case. Recently, Peugeot announced some exciting changes in the brand’s traditional naming system.

[I]n response to market fragmentation and the consequent need for a wider range of products, each with strong distinguishing features, Peugeot has decided to expand its naming system by doubling the central 0.

The inauguration of this four-digit naming system coincides with this year’s launch by Peugeot of a new, original and innovative model that will be positioned as an extension of its existing range.

Have you seen the 2004 2004?

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Only the names have been changed: rebranding movie titles

Here is a funny article about the process of rebranding American movie titles with more literal names when the films are exported to other countries. Pretty Woman became I’m Rich But I Like Cheap Prostitutes in Germany and,

On its release in China, Boogie Nights — about a well-endowed porn star — became His Powerful Device Makes Him Famous.

The Piano, the 1993 romantic drama about a mute woman piano player in 19th-century New Zealand, was retitled Wretch! Let Me Chop Off Your Finger.

Never underestimate what a powerful device a name can be….

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