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The name game is completely out of control

August 09, 2007|By TIM ROWLAND


How can anyone take America seriously when the names of three of our biggest corporations are Google, Yahoo and eBay?

How can we hope to promote democracy worldwide when our biggest presidential debate of the season is held on something called "YouTube?"

Remember the good old days when Americans could make fun of Asian names such as Hoo Flung Poo? Remember the eighth-grade joke about the Chinese word for constipation being "hung chow?"

And the Australians were always good for a few laughs. Who else would name a horn a didgeridoo? That's not the kind of naming that grants a nation superpower status.


Now they are laughing at us. "Ha ha, the Americans are trying to broker world peace with someone called 'Condoleezza.'"

It used to be that our industry had good, serious-sounding names, like International Business Machines, Metropolitan Life, Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing and the Great Atlantic Tea Co.

You knew what these companies did.

But whither "BuyDig" and "ValueClick?"

When our ancestors formed a voice communications company, they called it "American Telephone and Telegraph." Today we call it "Skype."

How long will it be before someone starts a life insurance company and names it SlabJack?

"Victrola" and "phonograph" are good, meaty, meaningful words. But "iPod?"

To go with the iPod, we have the V chip - which took the place of something that in the old days was known as "parents."

Yesterday our commentators were Edward R. Murrow and Harry Reasoner. Today they are Kos and Wonkette.

We don't use middle initials anymore, that's the problem. Richard M. Nixon, Harry S. Truman, Woodrow T. Wilson.

Those were some serious individuals.

Now we have Barrack and Mitt. Can you think of the middle initial of even one of today's presidential hopefuls?

The Republican Revolution of the '90s was led by an individual named Newt. Can you imagine if the French Revolution had been led by someone named Newt? It never would have happened, because the Frenchmen would have been laughing too hard to build the barricades.

This disturbing trend extends into pop culture as well. Rock bands used to be named after natural, God-given entities, such as "The Animals" and the "Rolling Stones." Today we have "My Chemical Romance."

When Norma Jeane Mortenson needed a stage name, she chose wisely, settling on the sultry and glamorous "Marilyn Monroe." The best Marvin Aday could do was "Meatloaf."

This is why America is failing. This is why the aqueducts built by the Romans are still around today, but we can't get a bridge to last 40 years.

This is why we can't win the war. In the old days we had "Fighting Tigers." Today, we are driving around in things named "humvees." No wonder we're struggling. What enemy will take us seriously?

In the old days we would have seriously studied Middle East culture. We would have learned about their fears. And if we wanted them to scatter, we would have known that instead of dropping bombs we should be dropping pork chops.

This is the serious part of American ingenuity and know-how I am talking about. And it all starts with the name. The levees are bound to break if, instead of good, sound Portland Cement we are using "Quikrete."

We need to think about the consequences of the things we name. What will it say of us in 70 years when our nursing homes are full of Britneys and P Diddys?

You expect a band to spell its name wrong on purpose, but what will archeologists think centuries hence when they discover we entrusted our medical care to New Jersey's "InVentiv Health?"

Fine guys, they are your companies and if you want to capitalize letters in the middle of the word it is none of my business. Just remembered that I tried to warn you in 20 years when you are living in sewers and gnawing on your iRat.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on

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