May 16, 2008

The Wonder of Names

Im going off tangent for this short piece, unusally huh, but i wanted to soak in some of creative responses you guys have shown me for this assignment, and I will hopefully stay on line with the economic peculiarities discussed in these two books. I found a book at the thrift store i work at, which is basically a cross-section of the languages of the world and how ours evolved from other Indo-European branches. Mario Pei, in his book The Story of Language, sheds light onto some of the topics that you have brought to the surface, including economics. Part of his research focuses on many different aspects of the culture of business throughout time, however being written in 1949, it was almost a premonition of how much language would impact the consumers world in a world of advertising. Namely, that products and services which capture the consumers delight through something so simple as its name and the reputation it builds through marketing would be the decider of who rises to the top of fortune 500's.
In an excerpt from his book, he states that "several theories are current among linguists today, but with the distinct understanding that they are as yet unproved and, in the nature of things, probably unprovable. They have been given picturesque names, which proves that linguists, too, can be imaginative on occasion. The "bow-wow" theory holds that language arose in imitation of the sounds occurring in nature. A dog barks; his bark sounds like bow-wow to a human hearer. Therefore he designates the dog as bow-wow. The "ding-dong" theory is to the effect that language at first consisted of spurts of surprise, fear, pleasure, pain, etc. It is often paired with the "yo-he-ho" theory to the effect that language arose from grunts of physical exertion, and even with the "sing-song" theory, that language arose from primitive inarticulate chants. The "ta-ta theory that lanaguage comes from imitation of bodily movements is further exemplified in the Darwinian belief described above.
In Pei's approach to language, it becomes more clear to me anyway, that some of the most successful companies of the internet boom reached their apex because of their name, not so much as the goods they offered. Upon reaching their initial gold vein, they were then able to focus their capital on truly improving their products or services. Google.com would be an example of the sound of a baby makes, on the cusp of forming words, yet very new to the world and trying to make sense of a God-given ability, also the symbolic sound of 0's and 1's, which to the average mind- is, well, mindblowing. Amazon.com - this name just sounds looooonnnnngggg, full of just about every sound it seems, every creepy critter crawler, which gives the consumer an idea of what the company might offer before spending sleepless nights browsing the sight building a massive shopping cart knowing full well theres only pennies in the pockets. There are many more out there, but just as people carefully choose the names of their kids, sometimes even changing it after birth after deep pondering, companies that can find the name that appeals to their target audience are more able to ignite a trend and build a lasting reputation and profitable business.
To me a new product, even if innovative and unheard of, is only half the challenge. Finding a name for it, one that like Pei says, symbolically brings some sense of satisfaction and a feeling for the customer of being "involved" in the inventors revolution, "involution" i guess, is only half the adventure. Doctors and medical workers i've noticed are surfing the Croc craze, as their job requires extreme comfort for their feet and standing long hours in their work, and if we haven't learned yet, crocs are about the toughest, sometimes cranky, creatures on earth. Names, in all actuality, breathe life into creation. Could you imagine it any other way? I can't.

1 comment:

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