– Laurel Sutton, Senior Strategist & Linguist at Catchword Brand Name Development
CES 2016 (January 6-9, 2016) has come and gone, and, as always, offered up a rich selection of new product and company names for analysis (and occasional mockery). Questionable name choices for “innovative” products pop up every day, but only at CES are they concentrated in one place, at one time.
Of course, some of the names come from non-American/UK companies, and so should not be judged by the same standards as English-language efforts. Gyenno, for example, is a well-established Chinese company whose name apparently has no meaning, according to their registered US trademark. It sounds uncomfortably close to the Greek wordpart “gyno-”, but presumably it was chosen for its Chinese significance. Likewise, Carpyz (car pies? Car peas? Car piss?), a French company specializing in fluid mechanics, may have taken its name from its founder, Pierre Carrouset, and Pyz, a scientific notation used in fluid calculations. (This is just speculation – I’d love to know the real derivation.)
But what about Samsung Welt? The name was displayed at CES on a smart belt, or “wellness belt”, which is where the name apparently came from. Despite owning the registered TM for the name, Samsung might want to think about the primary meaning in English, which is “a red, swollen mark on the skin”, something you might get if your belt was too tight, I guess. Welt in German means “world”, which is at least not negative, but again, does not really play well with the product (I’m picturing a belt around the circumference of a lovely round globe – not the image you want for a wellness belt).
Ween is a smart thermostat developed by a French company but aimed at an English-speaking audience. Could it be a play on the French word for “yes”, oui? Or maybe it’s supposed to connote wean – but that doesn’t make any sense at all (wean means to accustom a child to food other than mother’s milk). I immediately thought of the indie band Ween, who coined the name as a combination of the words wuss and penis, and which provokes adolescent snickers to this day. Ween has not yet filed for a trademark, and I’d be very interested to see if they claim that the name is meaningless, and if so, whether the USPTO buys it. (The band does not have a trademark, either.)
Some names are just impenetrable (to me, anyway). Smaato is a mobile advertising platform; their registered trademark was likely a breeze, since the name appears meaningless and unique. Pureple seems to be a play on pure and purple; it’s an app for digitizing your wardrobe, but it’s not clear how the name relates to the function. Spün is the name of a set of smart utensils that tracks calories (something I never want). The set comes with a spoon and a fork, so the name is kind of limiting even if you can figure out that it’s pronounced “spoon” and not “spun”. (The actual sound of “ü” in German isn’t quite “oo”; it’s a front rounded vowel, whereas “oo” is a back rounded vowel.)
And some names are easy to understand but not particularly elegant: Grush is a “gaming toothbrush”. Laundroid is a robot that folds laundry. Whill is a customizable wheelchair. Displ’ever is a home-automation display; the random apostrophe is puzzling, but the domain name is downright awful: displ-ever.com. And then there is Healbe, the company that really likes the word “be” – so much so that they stuck it on their fitness tracker to create the Pig Latinish name Healbe GoBe.
It’s heartening to see that these companies are at least protecting their, ahem, unusual name choices. But maybe, next time, hire a naming company?