Schuh column: In a simpler time
By Jim Schuh
As I was watching TV one day, it struck me that many of the commercials that interrupt my viewing are for companies or products with manufactured or made-up names. Some of these names do a good job of describing the product, while others do not. All of them are forcing us to increase the number of words in our vocabulary.
Most of the made-up names originate in companies’ advertising departments or ad agencies. The creative geniuses huddle in a room and toss out ideas to colleagues. They might use computers to assist in coming up with a product name, or they might go to firms like “Namimium” and pay for a name. But no matter how they generate a moniker, many of the manufactured words can be confounding and not descriptive of the product.
The advertising and marketing folks sell their ideas to top management before their creations wind up on new products and they’re introduced in the marketplace. They hope the name will be catchy, and if it has some relationship with the product, all the better.Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t.
I came up in a simpler time when cars carried the names of people – Ford, Chrysler, Chevrolet and the like. Tractors bore people’s names, too – John Deere and Allis-Chalmers, and International Harvester describes what the machine does.
Drugs had easy names as well – milk of magnesia, aspirin and castor oil, although some had fancier proprietary names – Vick’s Vapo Rub, Mentholatumor Carter’s Little Liver Pills. Those products gave users a hint about their ingredients or intended purpose– such as “menthol” in Mentholatum or vapors from Vick’s.
But in more recent times, the number of inventions and new companies has skyrocketed and all of them need names. That’s where many of these concocted words enter the picture.
Today, in the internet age, all of us face trying to discern the meaning of so many manufactured names of companies and products – they’re so voluminous thatwe’ve become confounded and confused. What is Hulu? What about Yahoo? Or Uber?These corporate names don’t explain what they are. It takes us a while to get some idea of their purpose.
And then there are the pharmaceutical companies.What is Humira? Or Mayvret? Is Otezla an Irish version of Tesla?
I think that in the case of drugs, the name manufacturers assign to them (with government approval) are a little better that the drugs’ generic names – like adalimumab,fluticasoneor ruxolitinib that normal people can’t pronounce, much less remember.
All these made up words don’t describe anything, at least anything I can come up with.
I like new things and think I’m open to new ideas, but these news terms are just too much for my aging brain. After a while, they all blend together, and I can’t figure out what’s what. I’d certainly fail a test if someone put a dozen of these words before me and asked me to explain what each one means. How about you?
I suppose it’s time to stop complaining. After reading in piece in Quartz magazine, maybe all these crazy names aren’t so bad.
The article by Echo Huang tells of the Chinese who have difficulty pronouncing the names of western luxury imported cars in their native tongue, like the Mercedes Benz or Audi. They’ve given the cars Chinese nicknames that certainly rival what I’ve discussed above.
The article notes the Chinese have come up with their own translation of the brand’s English name or because of the way the car performs or looks.
They’ve named the BMW the equivalent of “Don’t touch me,” because they consider the vehicle to be precious. Their nickname for the Audi RS series is “gangster in a suit,” based on the car’s look and performance. And the Mercedes AMG is “love the hen,” because of the way AMG sounds in Mandarin Chinese. The Chevy Camaro is the “bumblebee,” taken from a Transformers movie.
Oh, for a simpler time.