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Josh’s Rule of Naming

I have a “rule” when it comes to picking a name for something – a domain name for a website, a product name, an email address, etc.

Never pick a name that you have to spell every time you speak it, and/or have to explain how to pronounce every time you write it.

I try to follow this for all of my blogs, web projects, etc. And I explain it to people when I’m helping them get started with a blog or a podcast or something. But it’s amazing how often this rule gets violated in the world today.

A couple of examples:

I’d pick on Flickr here, but they’ve become so popular that I only have to explain the “no e” thing to non-geeks. But I will pick on Zooomr. Besides the vowel atrophy, how many people have gone to “zoomr.com” (only two o’s, not three, but the natural way to try and spell it) by mistake? It’s not the photo sharing site you were looking for. You learn after the first few times to type it correctly, but every time I tell someone about Zooomr, I end up saying “zee oh oh oh em arr dot com”, or having to explain that there are three o’s instead of two. Zooomr breaks the rule!

Another example (just to pick on my employer a little bit! ;-)) is Intel’s “Viiv” technology. Almost invariably, when you see it written, it’s immediately followed by the text (“sounds like five”) or some other clue as to how to pronounce the word. And I often have to spell it out (“vee aye aye vee”) when I’m talking to someone about it. Nevermind the fact that most people don’t quite know what it means, anyway… Viiv breaks the rule, too.

If possible, you should avoid living on a street that you have to spell out, too, or you’ll be saying “Brynn road that’s bee arr why en en road…” every time you order pizza.

This should apply to naming your children, too, but far be it from me to try to tell people how they should or shouldn’t name their kids. If they want to use a “unique” spelling or name, who am I to stop them? Keighleigh? Sihndee? Whatever you want. Can you tell that Rachel and I have been talking about names for our soon-to-be-born baby?

Follow this naming rule, and you’ll save whole seconds every time you use the name, either written or spoken, by not having to spell it out. Over the course of your lifetime, this could add up to years that would have otherwise been wasted! Feel free to thank me any way you see fit – I take PayPal! 😉

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13 thoughts on “Josh’s Rule of Naming

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  3. Heh. Tell me about it. I have 23 domain names registered, and I’m actively using maybe 10 of them. Those annual registration fees, even though they’re only $5.00/year/domain through 1and1.com, can add up.

    I tend to register good names when they come to me, and think of ways to put them to use later. Which is why I’ve done domain name giveaways in the past, and will be doing more in the future. :-)

  4. I was thinking about the address thing before I even got to the end of your post. I could not imagine living on a street that I had to spell out every time I said it.

    Same goes for names. One of my high school teachers/friend named her daughter after her grandmother, whose name didn’t use the standard spelling of the name (Clare). The kid is only 3 now, but having to go through life correcting people is going to be a pain.

  5. Matt Davis says:

    Some favorite “creative” spellings on my friends’ kids’ names (eg, these are real):

    Rachael (but pronounced “ra-shel”)
    Elaynah (Elaina)
    Mychal (Michael)
    Djeryd (Jared)- I think this one takes the cake.

    Don’t know why you’d curse your child to a life of spelling (and/or pronouncing) their own name for everyone who asks, but to each his own, I guess. My wife and I try to keep these things in mind when coming up with baby names for our yet-to-be-conceived first child…

  6. Spellability and speakability are two of the most important attributes of a good brand name. But it’s also important to distinguish between intrinsic spellability and familiarity-based spellability, and between intrinsic speakability and familiarity-based speakability.

    Some words are easy to spell merely because they are common. For example, “cereal” is fairly easy to spell, but just because it’s a common word. But it is not intrinsically easy to spell. Someone who wasn’t already familiar with the word would have a difficult time guessing how to spell it if they heard it for the first time.

    Other “words” are intrinsically easy to spell. “Snoker” is easy to spell despite it not being a real word, much less a familiar one. It follows somewhat standard spelling and pronunciation rules.

    When I recommend names to my clients, I strive for intrinsic spellability and speakability. Familiar words are all too often generic and too descriptive of the product. Generic or descriptive names are among the worst. See here for details.

  7. That’s a really good point. I tend to go for the ones that are intrinsic, but unusual. There’s more to a good name than just being able to spell it, but not being able to spell/pronounce it without help can make an otherwise good name bad.

    Thanks for the comment! :-)

  8. C.V. says:

    Josh,

    I have the inverse problem. I go by my initials: cee vee.

    Whenever I introduce myself I say: “I’m C.V. I go by my initials, cee vee”.

    Sometimes people ask me how to spell my name – answering “cee vee” doesn’t seem to work.

    C.V. (that’s cee vee)

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