September 16, 2011

What's in a name?

Have you ever stopped to think about the meaning behind the powerful companies that infiltrate into our daily lives and what the meaning is behind their brand name?
The Next Web put together a list of over 30 tech companies and how their founders made that important decision. From home towns, to birthdays, to personal nicknames, a lot of the names have a very personal meaning for the founders.

Here are a few of my favourite:

 Google’s name was an accident. Originally going with googol, a misspelling led to the name that has since become a noun, verb, and an ever-present part of our online lives. The original choice of name googol was a reflection of the company’s mission to take over the world. Just kidding. Google’s mission was to organize the boundless amounts of information available online.

Ok so Lego is not a tech company, but it’s a company of utmost importance to any self-respecting geek. Lego is a play on the the Danish expression, Leg godt, which means, well, Play well. Lego is also a Latin word meaning I put together but the company claims that is entirely coincidental.

You might not realize it but the actual Japanese company, Nintendo, was formed in Kyoto in 1889. From producing handmade playing cards, to a cab company, to a love hotel, the business went through a variety of incarnations, but held on to its original name. In 1974 the company ventured into the electronics world, and a year later it entered the video game arcade industry. The name can be roughly translated as ‘leave luck to heaven.’


The company name started out as Sky-Peer-to-Peer, was shortened to Skyper, and was then shortened some more, to Skype. The reason for dropping the R was due to what has become a major issue today when deciding on a business name – the domain was already taken.


Sony’s name is a double entendre. It refers both to the Latin word sonus meaning sound, and it also refers to the American slang expression, sonny boys, which is what co-founders Akio Moritom and Masaru Ibuka described themselves as, back in the day. In the 1950s in Japan, sonny boys had connotations of a young, smart and presentable men. Sony was also chosen because it was easily pronounced in many languages.

 Quite a few names were mulled over when deciding what to call Twitter, including Twitch and Jitter. In a interview earlier this year, co-founder Jack Dorsey explained how they arrived at the name Twitter:
We wanted a name that evoked what we did. We wanted something that was tangible. And we looked at what we were doing and when you received a tweet over SMS, your phone would buzz. It would jitter. It would twitch. And those were the early names, Jitter and Twitch. And neither one of them really inspired the best sort of imagery.
He goes on to say:
One of the guys who was helping us build and create the system, Noah Glass, took the word Twitch, and he went down the dictionary. And we all looked at the Oxford English dictionary at the T-W’s, and we found the word Twitter. And Twitter means a short inconsequential burst of information, chirps from birds. And we were like, that describes exactly what we’re doing here. So it was an easy choice, and we got for some very low price, and we named the company Twitter.

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