The name game

In my day job as copywriter, I spend a decent amount of time coming up with names for companies, products, and services. Sometimes it’s an easy lift like, say, when I’m tasked with incorporating the owner’s namesake. (The George Foreman Grill comes to mind.) But more often than not, it’s a process that requires in-depth research, tedious trademark queries, and copious complaining.

It isn’t just a question of creativity, but an issue of availability. The digital age has ushered in a proliferation of brands and, thus, brand names. Sure, sure, there’s the old adage about all the good men being taken, but I’m more concerned about the shortage of good names.

I credit this dearth of monikers for the slew of brands that drop letters. Can’t create a name you love that isn’t trademarked? Drop an E like Tumblr. Want to go full Team Consonant? Drop allllll the vowels and create a name like MNDFL, which offers the added benefit of doubling as a game of Wheel of Fortune.

Since I’m fond of all letters, I can’t bear to exclude any. I typically begin a branding exercise at that darling of naming wells for pharmaceuticals and day spas: Latin. The problem? My names end up sounding like Harry Potter spells.

My favorite naming experience was when our ad agency was asked to come up with a name for a client’s food truck. The team created a list of fantabulous foodie names. As we presented to the client, a look of consternation crossed her face. She took a long pause and said, “When I said I wanted you to name my food truck, I meant an actual name. Like Susan or Joanne.”

Oooooooo boy.

All of this naming angst made me appreciate the 2021 list of new words. My favorites aren’t the official ones added to Merriam-Webster, like “dad bod” or “amirite” (shudder) or “deplatform,” but the humorous ones that people coin just for funsies. Here are a few notables:

Blamestorming: Figuring out who to blame.

Cellfish: When someone pays more attention to a phone rather than a person they’re with.

Dudevorce: When two men end a friendship.

Epiphinot: An epiphany that’s kind of a letdown.

Pregret: Regret over something you haven’t done yet. (I have had many pregrets.)

Typerventilate: Sending multiple texts very quickly.

After Clap: The last person to clap after everyone else has stopped.

Fauxpology: An insincere apology.

Preteentious: A pretentious pre-teen.

Textpectation: When you’re expecting a text.

Nonversation: A pointless conversation.

Of course, all of this comes to mind when I’m naming characters or creating the title of a book. Both are a kind of branding exercise and require thoughtful discernment. And, perhaps, a sense of fun.

So tell me, dear readers, which neologisms (listed or not) make you laugh? Do you have any good naming stories from books or elsewhere?

Photos by Skitterphoto and Vinu00edcius Vieira ft

42 thoughts on “The name game

  1. Thanks for the interesting post Kathleen. Many of us become writers because we love words. My heroine Natalie McMasters uses a fair bit of Gen Z slang. Some of my fave terms are cheugy (uncool and outdated), clap those cheeks (I’ll let you guess what that one means), Miss Rona (our fave virus), ratchet (obnoxious, rude, trashy or upset), WOAT (worst of all time) and weird flex, but OK (a response to something considered strange or inappropriate).

    Liked by 4 people

      1. I forgot to mention one that’s a favorite of a family friend. Garagemahal – a super nice and/or fancy garage that is more glorious than the associated house.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. I love your list, but a couple of my faves are oldies but goodies … bromance, bacne, and newsertainment. And my son in the Navy taught me “voluntold.” Perfect, amirite?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh, these are great! Although I’m steaming about “amirite.” Don’t celebrate lazy, misspelled words! I know there’s a word that I like but I can’t remember. I’ll revisit if it comes to me.

    Oh, there’s OG. For original. Does that count? Less fun but slangy.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. It’s in the dictionary?? Personally, I love “amirite” and use it whenever I type something the least bit ironic, or if IRL I’d give someone an obnoxious nudge with my elbow.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I knew Becky would feel a slight Spidey sense going off on the amirite word. I had no clue it was added to a dictionary! I also blend stuff like that. Dontchaknow and didjaeat are two favorites of mine. My cousin is good for JesusJosephandMary! Or in her PA Dutch voice, “CheesusChosephandMary.”

        Liked by 1 person

  4. OMG! I love your list. I have a new medical one for you now! I was speaking to my cousin a few nights ago. We’re very close, though she’s 7 years younger than I am and she never lets me forget it. But I digress… So, Jenn (cousin is a nurse for about 23 years) and I were treating each other like sisters. This is how the conversation went…
    Tracy: Get your head out of your a$$!
    Jenn: You mean I need a cephalocolectomy?!
    T: *Sprays iced tea all over desk and desktop computer* Precisely, my dear! Hand me my scalpel and bend over!
    J & T: *Laugh like hyenas! *
    We medical nerds are goobers!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’ve also found that Urban Dictionary is my best friend for both teen slang AND naming for the day job. Let me just say there have been some close calls with names that meant something compleeeeeeeeeetely different in slang.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Here’s a word for you. I said it, so that means it’s a word, right?
    Amazoning – the act of window shopping on the Amazon website.
    You can’t tell me you’ve never done that! I admit it. Sometimes I look just to see what’s on there. Like the time I found toilet seat night lights , or color coded, or something like that

    Liked by 4 people

  6. So funny, Kathy! And very educational, too. I have a ton of ultra-hip new words to impress people with now. (Maybe even my kids.) In one of my jobs we created a parody series of the Goosebumps series by RL Stine. Legal insisted we make it clear it was a parody, so in the familiar dripping font ours said “Gooflumps.” I think the first one was set in WI and featured a literal cheese monster. The title was “Eat Cheese and Barf,” a riff on Stine’s “Say Cheese and Die. “ The kids loved it but Legal said we could only do two books in our “series.”

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Love these, Kathy! I’ve had a few epiphanots— now I know what to call them.
    Only slang I’ve learned lately was JOMO. Instead of Fear Of Missing OUT, it’s JOY Of Missing Out. JOMO is what I feel when I decide to skip a social event so I can stay home and read!

    Liked by 1 person

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