BizarreThe strange, the weird, the wonderful ...
November 26, 2004
Websites that use language and terminology that you can't understand.
Stuff you don't understand
Have you ever visited a website, and started to wonder if it is written in another language? The words are english, individual sentences appear to make sense, but by the time you have gotten to the bottom of the page, you can't recall any of it.
"Your speaking a language I don't understand" is a familiar feeling if you have older children, but when businesses have their own arcane language, their own code, it can feel unsettling.
"Is it too difficult for me to understand?". "Is it complete Bulls**t?". Both of these responses, and I am sure many others, are viable when visiting some of the more 'out there' sites.
Our friends at Igor International in the states alerted us via their newsletter to a real beauty. To read there full response you'll have to visit their blog www.snarkhunting.com, but www.isixsigma.com is a real doozy.
Headlines as 'Six Sigma Quality resources for Achieving Six Sigma Results' (there's nothing like being self reverential). Notionally Six Sigma is about measurement of service processes (I think), but it is the fascinating language and grammar of the site, the jargon that really sets it apart.
Apparently you can become a Master Black Belt, or a Green Belt, or a Champion (apparently even a Lean Champion). There are a hundred and one companies that can train you, mentor you in Six Sigma. You can use neat tools like Wald's Sequential Test Method for process capability decisions (which can result in 50% sampling savings!)
The more you click links, the more you sink into the world of Six Sigma.
Now I'm sure it's all very sensible stuff, but as an outsider it can feel baffling.
Another of my favourites is the world of Knowledge Management. Without wanting to pick on any one particular site (oh go on. Ed) www.entovation.com is one of my favourites.
"Committed to enhancing the prosperous sustainability of enterprises around the world through the optimal flow of knowledge in innovation systems". Now the name is a good start. Presumably a combination of Enterprise and Innovation - it reminds me of something my Professor at college once said, when a student was presenting a hybrid product idea - "it's the best of both worlds" he said. My Professor muttered under his breath "or the worst".
Entovation is led (and for all I know the only employee) by the formidable Debra M. Amidon - Chairwomen and CEO. The site is full of her events, speeches, articles, primers, interviews, awards and publications. A one women publishing phenomenon it would appear.
'Entovation International Ltd is a global innovation research and consulting network linking 90 countries throughout the world. Her Network has evolved into the internationally recognized ENTOVATION 100 of Global Leadership and The ENTOVATION Group – 50 from 30 countries. She’s been featured in notable biographical publications such as The International Book of Honor and the Woman of the Decade. She was announced a finalist for the 2002 Competitive Intelligence (CI) Champion of the Year'.
Ms Amidon is clearly big on knowledge.
'Considered an architect of the Knowledge Economy as early as 1995, her own specialties include knowledge management, e-learning networks, customer innovation and enterprise transformation'. Phew.
Now we at LingoLAB have just had to go through the pain of writing about ourselves for our new website, capturing our essence in 100 words or less - that sort of thing. Ms Amidon generally spurns this tactic - happy to leave no stone unturned (or unwritten).
Now the big question that comes to my mind (probably because I missed out on that optimal flow of knowledge thing) is - 'what exactly is it?'
Knowledge systems.... hmm. is that like 'stuff'? Like the stuff you need to know, to do... things?
A bit like Thing 1 and Thing 2, from the Cat in the Hat. (Do you think The Cat in the Hat had a knowledge system?).
OK, it's easy to laugh at the expense of other industry sectors, we have our own fair-share of 'naming language'. Still, I think it is always worth looking at your own writing, your own language and grammar - and take a long hard look - and a deep breath, and write it so that most people, most of the time can understand it, and when it's technical, keep it simple.
Posted by jonathan.mercer at 03:40 PM | Single Article
October 13, 2004
A bit of a Tattoo!
Before I even start writing this piece about my selected ‘name of the month’ I know there’s a problem. If I write it out in full or use a row of ‘x’s’ then it may fail to reach you. It starts with P ends with K and has an R, I and a C in the middle. We’ll have to rely on a picture instead.
An interesting name which concentrates on the experience of being tattooed. Certainly memorable and catchy and honest.
The parlour nestles opposite the shadow of the railway bridge at the end of Old Street and Shoreditch High Street. You can sit and watch the comings-and-goings from No-One’s coffee bar attached to the shop of the same name brimming with quirky clothes and accessories. It’s also next to a bar called Jam, and round the corner from a club named Herbal. This corner of Shoreditch is populated with interesting names for shops and bars, reflecting the creative community of artists and designers that now populates it.
If you want to find out more then check out the site below. The owner of said shop Henry Hate has his own website too. Be warned strictly for the over 18’s and those not easily offended.
Posted by pauline.amphlett at 10:12 AM | Single Article
August 18, 2004
Lost in Translation
No, this isn’t about the Bill Murray film, but that old chestnut of names that have an unfortunate meaning in another language.
With our Olympic medal hopes rather shaky, I noticed that Pippa Funnel has been told that “Pippa” is an offensive term in Greek. Organisers at the games have asked her to be known by her full name, Philippa, on official listings (Evening Standard, 17/8/04, www.athens2004.com). I’ve no idea what the nature of the offence is. In guides to baby names Pippa means ‘lover of horses’ from the Greek philein + hippos.
This put me in mind of a curious website I stumbled across for the Institute for Naming Children Humanely, www.inch.stormpages.com A little scary in its rather fascist approach, and presumably some sort of spoof (although it’s not very funny!)
I’m glad not all naming theories take such a narrow view of what’s ok and what’s not.
Posted by kate.fishenden at 03:00 PM | Single Article
July 14, 2004
Stealing the heavens
Intrigued by the idea of names that we have adopted from history, or indeed ‘normal’ language, to label something new, and are now more closely associated with that new thing than the original. So at the mention of Homer, the first thing that springs to mind is Springfield and its inhabitants, rather than the epic story of the Trojan War.
I half-heard one of those snippets on the radio the other day that got me thinking. It was along the lines of someone saying, “I didn’t know Homer Simpson wrote the Iliad.” I was intrigued by the idea of names that we have adopted from history, or indeed ‘normal’ language, to label something new, and are now more closely associated with that new thing than the original. So at the mention of Homer, the first thing that springs to mind is Springfield and its inhabitants, rather than the epic story of the Trojan War. (www.thesimpsons.com)
Ancient mythology is an area that has been thoroughly plundered. Trojan, especially in the US, immediately suggests something quite un-classical, in fact America’s Number 1 condom. Again the struggle between Greece and Troy can’t break through the modern media offensive.
Venus still fairs rather better with immediate associations probably with the planet or the Roman goddess of love and beauty, before Gillette’s ‘lady razor’. Gillette’s new Venus Divine emphasizes the heavenly qualities of the product, presumably giving you even more goddess-like legs. On the website (www.gillettevenus.com) you can reveal your goddess name – fatuous but quite amusing – especially when mis-used. I entered the name of my (male) dog Toffee and discovered his inner-goddess is “a thoroughly obliging friend who favours endless emotion.”
From goddess to vestal virgin. What does virgin conjure up? I think rather impressively, in branding terms, the first thing I think of is phones, or trains, or indeed the distinctive script logo. When the brand name Virgin was first bandied about I think I was young enough to be at least slightly embarrassed and to feel the slight frisson of rebelliousness intended. It felt brave and naughty. Nowadays Branson heads up a brand that’s moved on from its naïve beginnings, but still has that challenger spirit.
Even commoner words are being heisted. Think of orange. I think just the colour hits me first. But then the phones and the fruit flood in at almost the same time. Not dissimilar to being Tangoed. Another impressive and consistent piece of brand building has hijacked a familiar part of our language to create a highly resonant image. As a child oranges were my favourite fruit but I think my love for them has been slightly tarnished by having their name used as an abstract for more commercial purposes.
Apple is another fruit now probably more associated with computers than orchards – or even celebrity babies. The plurality of meaning resides reasonably comfortably in my head. I don’t think there’s any chance of me going shopping for a few apples and coming back with a brown paper bag full of i-macs. All meaning is context dependent, and so generally the use of a common word as a name can work. Two recent exceptions, that seemed to lead to more confusion than rich imagery, are Monday, PwC’s consulting arm, and One, the train company.
As we know, available names are getting harder and harder to find. It’s often nice to use real words for names as they can conjure up evocative myths and images that begin to tell the brand story immediately. However, some of the plundering of the heavenly bodies does feel like a shame. Pluto’s a dog, Mercury was a phone company, Milky Way is the treat you can eat between meals. Strangely enough Uranus seems to be available…
Posted by kate.fishenden at 12:10 PM | Single Article
LingoLAB is a creative naming agency,
creating the language that makes brands successful.