Thursday, July 31, 2008

We pity the fuil who named this Cuil.

The latest Google wannabe and new entrant to the Name Shame Hall of Fame, is "Cuil". The company says that "Cuil" is pronounced "cool". Really? We think whoever came up with this name is a tuil. As noted in a catty write up in Silicon Alley Insider, "We can't pronounce it, we can't spell it, and we don't know how to use it in a sentence. Are we supposed to pronounce 'Cuil' like 'cool,' or the cutesey AOL-turned-MySpace-speak 'kewl'? We're already used to 'googling it.' Are we supposed to "cuil it" instead? We've seen commenters already misspell Cuil in writing about it, a serious problem when trying to bring people to a site. Especially if you don't own common misspellings of your own domain: As CrunchGear notes, leads to an Italian porn outfit."

To make things even more fuilish, the company website claims that "Cuil is an old Irish word for knowledge". We can't find any old Irish word spelled "cuil", however we did find "ciall" which is pronounced "keel" not "cool" and means what they think "Cuil" means.

Another story is that (Co-Founder Tom) Costello's Irish heritage inspired Cuil's odd name. It was derived from a character named Finn McCuill in Celtic Folklore. Hmmmmmmmm.

A "Cuil" search finds this:

"Rumour has it that Northern Ireland’s own giant, Finn McCuill scooped up a huge clod of earth to fling at a fleeing rival, which stopped shot [sic] of its target and ended up in the sea. The clod of earth became the Isle of Man and the hole it left behind became Lough Neagh."

We see the connection now..... wait, nope can't see it (unless they are foretelling a metaphoric failure by throwing a clod of earth at rival Google and stopping short of the target).

Could be that they wanted to use "Ciall" (which is not a great name unless you are an Irish company) but it was already taken by these guys (who are an Irish company)?

It goes without saying, although we are saying it, that they broke all the ruils of the SMILE & SCRATCH Test.

They should have spent some of that venture money on a real cool name.

Just for kicks, we did a search on Cuil for "Eat My Words." The results were bizarre... they got the photo right but WTF is the Eat My Words Poetry Zone?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Interview with Alexandra in Toy Magazine

Alexandra was recently featured in an interview in EdPlay magazine, which is the go-to resource for specialty toy, game, gift, and museum stores. We think toy store names should be fun, whimsical and cheeky, yet they are often the worst offenders and biggest Head Scratchers. Case in point: abraKIDabra, F.A.O. Schwartz, Toys "R" Us, and, pictured here, which is a classic example of a very dated retail store name. See what advice Alexandra spouted off in this informative article...

What’s the Name of That Store?

by Tina Manzer

The names of your store, website, special services and exclusive product are very important pieces of equipment in your marketing toolbox. Nowhere is that more evident than in the specialty toy industry, where names have to convey so much in so few words. To characterize your successful toy business or product accurately (and memorably), you must relate – in just a few words – that it’s fun, safe, whimsical, educational, colorful, skill-building, open-ended, trustworthy, high quality, favorite … you get the idea.

To get some advice on what makes a good name, we talked to Alexandra Watkins, founder of the naming company Eat My Words in San Francisco. She gave us her insight on the naming process, what makes a good name, and ways to test the name you come up with.

edplay: What are the components of a good company name in general? How about names for small independently owned toy stores?

Alexandra: The same basic principles of naming apply to everything. You want to be distinct from your competitors, be memorable, and make an emotional connection with your customers. An emotional connection that a toy store might want to make is to entertain, engage and make people smile. Speaking of smiling, we filter all of our names through the Eat My Words SMILE & SCRATCH Test, which is based on our philosophy that a name should make you smile, instead of scratch your head. Anyone can use this to evaluate her store name.

SMILE – qualities of a powerful name

Simple – one easy-to-understand concept
Meaningful – your customers instantly “get it”
Imagery – visually evocative, creates a mental picture
Legs – carries the brand, lends itself to wordplay
Emotional – empowers, entertains, engages, enlightens

SCRATCH it off the list if it has any of these deal-breakers:

Spelling-challenged – you have to tell people how to spell it
Copycat – similar to competitor’s names
Random – disconnected from the brand
Annoying – hidden meaning, forced
Tame – flat, uninspired, boring, non-emotional
Curse of Knowledge – only insiders get it
Hard-to-pronounce – not obvious, relies on punctuation

edplay: How should their toy stores’ names fit in with their branding, marketing, advertising and promotional efforts?

Alexandra: A great store name can drive all of these marketing functions. For instance, we named a chain of frozen yogurt stores Spoon Me. Before the store even opened, the sign outside said “Spooning Soon” instead of “Coming Soon.” On the front door, the sign says, “No shirt. No shoes. No spoon.” And since they are in Utah, their “Hours” sign says, “No spooning on Sunday.” Spoon Me has promotions like spooning contests and letting customers come up with new slogans for their bathroom wall, based on famous movie quotes (for instance, “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to spoon me.”). Spoon Me doesn’t need to do advertising because the name gets so much attention.

edplay: Could a business name make or break the business? Do you have any examples of a business that couldn't get off the ground because of its name? Or one that was so good that the name on its own sold the product?

Alexandra: A great name can make a business and even make money for a store. Spoon Me is a classic example of how a store can monetize their name through merchandising. They have a steady revenue stream from merchandise with the Spoon Me name on it, including t-shirts, pajamas, baby clothes, bumper stickers and buttons. If Spoon Me had gone with their original name, Zenyo, it might not have “broken” the business, but the company would not be cashing in on the name through merchandise sales. I know that two frozen yogurt stores I saw this weekend, Yogurt Cup and SoGreen, don’t have a powerful enough name to sell even a t-shirt, let alone drive a marketing or promotional campaign. People do stop in Spoon Me stores just to buy the merchandise. That’s a powerful name.

edplay: Could changing the existing name of a store give it a shot in the arm by creating more interest, generating sales, being more conducive to marketing? What if the name was inherited when the business was bought?

Alexandra: Unless your toy store name has a long legacy behind it, you can certainly change it. Business owners often have an inflated perspective of the equity in their name. A name change is a great excuse to do promotions and generate media attention. It’s like having an extreme makeover, and can definitely give any business additional marketing opportunities. There is a gourmet popcorn store called Popcorn 479. It’s totally flat. We would love to re-name it Pop Psychology. We would really play up the therapy theme and have gift tins like “Bi-Polar,” which would be half caramel/half cheese popcorn. And “Munchausen Syndrome” would be a fun name for a gift tin for anyone with a serious case of the munchies. I can’t think of anything you could do with a non-emotional and bland name like Popcorn 479. I guarantee that a name change for them would be an overnight success.

edplay: Do you have any advice for small independent businesses that are looking to come up with a name, change their name or make their identities stronger?

Alexandra: Take our SMILE & SCRATCH Test to see how your name does. If it doesn’t pass, try to come up with a name that lends itself to wordplay and has a rich vocabulary around it so you can extend the brand through marketing, merchandising and promotions.

edplay: What are some good ways to “test” a name?

Alexandra: Saying it out loud is a great test. Also make sure that if you have a website, your name doesn’t spell anything bad, like Cardiff Art Supply could be Yikes!


To see some of some fun kid-friendly names like Dizzywood and Monkey Dunks, check out our portfolio.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape of names we are born with, marry into, or want to shed like an itchy wool sweater.

Today I got a very clever inquiry from a freelancer that I just had to share with all of you… “I'm a freelance copywriter with a name that's hard to spell and pronounce. (But my parents were pharmacists, so I guess I'm lucky they didn't call me Diphenhydramine -- or Benadryl for short.) Although my name has grown on me, I understand first-hand why companies need to avoid head scratchers when it comes to naming themselves and their products. I'm sending my list of 20 names …" The email was signed by “Seré Halverson," which she clarified is "Pronounced Siree, as in Yes Siree. Fortunately, my middle name is not Bob." Seré didn’t mention that SERE is also an acronym for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, is a U.S. military program that provides personnel, Department of Defense civilians and contractors with training in evading capture, survival skills and the military code of conduct. Regardless, Seré GETS IT! She was born with a name that she constantly has to spell, pronounce and explain to people. So she understands first-hand why when you name a product or company, you should do everything you can to avoid having to do this.

Luckily, Seré has grown to like her name and even has quite a few namesakes. Most of them are people, although she does know of one French Poodle.

But what if you don’t like your last name or have to meld two names together? That’s where America’s only family naming expert, Kelly Utt-Grubb, of Name Counsel can help you. People facing a naming crisis who may need Kelly's expertise include…

  • same-sex couples getting married
  • men or women getting married
  • men or women getting re-married
  • married women who are not happy with their current last name/ their surname choices
  • couples expecting a child
  • couples adopting a child
  • individuals/single parents expecting a child
  • individuals/single parents adopting a child
  • couples creating a blended or step-family
  • women divorcing
  • widows beginning again after the death of a spouse
  • individuals seeking a last name that will help them move on from a difficult past
  • transgendered individuals choosing a new last name to go along with their new identities
Kelly can help you choose a personally meaningful last name you'll feel good about. And she should know. Someone once joked that taking naming advice from someone with the last name of Utt-Grubb must be like taking interior decorating advice from Ray Charles. But Kelly says that’s the beauty of it. Considering her husband, Mr. Utt-Grubb, is a strapping 6’4” former Air Force Special Ops from a small southern town in Tennessee, that’s utterly brave and modern of him to hyphenate his last name. (How many men do you know who hyphenate their names after marriage?)

Want to know what last name is right for you? Take Kelly’s free quiz and find out.

Our newest client Rachelle Goodfriend helps couples in the bedroom and beyond.

Does it really matter if you and your partner have vastly different design tastes? Can style disagreements really lead to big-time marital problems? What are some of the juiciest conflicts couples have? See our newest client, Rachelle Goodfriend of Goodfriend Design Group, answered these questions and more in a revealing interview in the glossy new August issue of San Francisco Magazine.

Rachelle is a successful psychotherapist- turned-interior designer based in San Francisco. She is gaining notoriety for her niche of helping couples that face challenges as they design an environment together. Her expertise in this area, often an emotionally charged minefield, includes proprietary "couple design compatibility tools," which will be included in her upcoming book.

Eat My Words is helping Rachelle change the name of her business to be more reflective of her specialty, capitalize on the massive need for couples to fuse their furnishings and design taste in harmony, and appeal to a national audience. In addition to a focused new business name, we are rebranding her business with a strong tagline to support her new brand, as well as a title for her first interior design book for couples.

Those of us in the Bay Area can also see Rachelle on The View From the Bay this Thursday, July 31st at 3pm on KGO-TV where she helps a couple fuse color, furniture, accessories, and window treatments to dramatically transform a bedroom from schizophrenia to synchronicity.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Eat My Words hits the cool client jackpot

Eat My Words has so many fun new clients that we have barely been able to catch our breath since Memorial Day. Some of the cool things we're naming are an uber-hip PR firm, a tasty new vodka, a modern day fortune teller (so to speak), a new tuna sub-brand for Star-kist, a yummy new cracker for Frito-Lay, a sizzling new menu item for Long John Silvers, an exotic adventure travel business, and shoes, shoes, and more shoes. Plus we're re-branding an as-seen-on-HGTV interior design firm with a new name, tagline and the first of many book titles. And we are helping SIGG launch a top-secret new product. I'll let you know when I can let the cat out of the bottle.

Eat My Words Office in New Interior Design Book

We were just notified that the wildly colorful "wall-to-wall eye candy" Eat My Words office has been selected to be showcased in a new interior design book that will spotlight "some of the coolest, hippest, most-awesome-of-all, killer-looking places to work." Published by Collins Design, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, the book features work environments that inspire creativity. As anyone who has visited our office knows, unlike old-school naming companies, some of which resemble accounting firms, our space isn’t stuffy, uptight or corporate. No cubicles. No boring conference rooms. Our office mirrors the work we do - it's wildly creative, fun, daring, unexpected and one-of-a-kind. Of course this isn't the first time our space has been recognized for its innovative interior design. It's been featured on Ultimate Kitchens on the Food Network, Small Space, Big Style on HGTV, Entrepreneur, HOW Magazine's Workspace spread, the San Francisco Chronicle, and design books. Additionally, our office was the showcase loft on the most recent San Francisco Loft Tour. Come by for a tour or check out more photos here

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Our name ideas for the McConaughey love child...

First of all, let me clarify that I was JOKING yesterday when I updated the status on my LinkedIn profile to say "Alexandra was paid a million dollars to name Nicole Kidman's new baby, Sunday." I wish! (I love the name Sunday. Very Tuesday Weld.)

And now, more baby news... Hunkster Matthew McConaughey has a new baby, whose name has not been released to the press. Matthew's family has a penchant for cool names - his older brother is named Rooster. Gotta love that!

Here are our name suggestions for Baby McConaughey:

Monet McConaughey
Macrame McConaughey
Chevrolet McConaughey

Attache McConaughey
Souffle McConaughey

and the winner...

Toupée Bidet McConaughey

Congratulations to baby daddy Matthew and baby mama Camila Alves.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Gname Our Gnew Gnome

The latest edition to the wildly colorful Eat My Words office is a nameless gnome by famed designer (and Target sell-out), Philippe Starck. Our Super Girl Friday Heidi, suggested the name Gnorm, but since it violates the #1 rule of the Eat My Words SMILE & SCRATCH Test (Spelling-challenged), Gnorm is a big Gno Gno. Let us know if you have any clever ideas for this little guy. God knows we have plenty of our own ideas, but once in awhile, we like to throw you a bone and let YOU name something.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Are you creative enough to be an Eat My Words namer? Take the test.

Dreaming up names can be a blast if you have talent. Of course the names created by Eat My Words aren't your typical trainwrecks resembling encrypted passwords that some naming firms pass off as "creative." Our names actually have concepts behind them. For instance, a chain of frozen yogurt stores named Spoon Me, an all-natural energy drink for women named Bloom, a home-cleaning robot named Neato, and gourmet dips for kids named Monkey Dunks. The visually evocative names we create make strong emotional connections with consumers and are instantly likable, which make them easier to remember than mangled, forced, and seemingly meaningless names. Easier said than done. If you think you have skills, we invite you to take our Namer Test...send us your top 20 names for a cool new external hard drive that stores an enormous amount of data. (Send names in an email to dreamjobs @ No attachments, please.) If your style matches are style, you'll hear back from us. To give you a head start, here are examples of some name submissions we have loved, and some that didn't exactly melt our butter...

Reservoir Dog
Zoo Keeper
Ice Box

Avast (and its smaller sibling, Avast Matey)
Basenji: No Bark, All Byte
Best Friend
BFF Storage
Big Byte
Carbon Space
Comp Closet
Data Basement
Data Can
Data Child
Data Galore
Data Henchman
Data Tank
Dream Maker Hard Drive
Drive Me Lots
Dyna Store
Encore: More Gigs
Food For Thought
Free Loader
Gig Bag
Glass Slipper
Gold Medal Storage
Impulse Connect
Indie Shack
King Storage
Loaded Parcel
Logos Data Drive
Magic Fingers
Mighty Special
Mutton Hut
Outside the Bore
Plan B
Plenty Of Room
Pocket Office
Port Knox
Portable File Cabinet
Requisite Receptacle
Revver Bank
Room To Spare
Save Me
Savvy Cache
Slender Storage
Speedy Stack
Spiffy Storage
Stor And Snore
Stor Em
Stor N Go
Symbiote: Hosts Wanted
The Brain (which plugs in via the Brain Cord)
The Mobile Office
The Portable Office
The Shingle
The Super Drive
Too Much Information
Vital Volume

Good luck! - $99 for a name and a laugh

The aptly named company Kluster FKC is using trying to use crowdsourcing (and $1 million) to name companies via their second venture, (their first crowdsourcing venture, Knewsroom went kaput in 37 days...ouch). Namethis-logo

For $99, claims to give you three world-validated names for your thingamajig in 48 hours.

We had no idea that "world-validated" was an euphemism for "really awful names in any language even if it isn't a real word, means anything or is even pronounceable". Here are some of the "winning" world-validated names created so far:

  • Eaternet - first wireless pay-at-the table entertainment device
  • Magnapeutic - therapeutic magnet patches
  • iChews - individualized cereal in the mail
  • Vestisa - investment management company for the people
  • Encompa - online strategy/consulting firm
  • Beauternity - beauty and anti-aging website
  • el-goog - reversed web searching
  • G.E.C. (Global.Energy.Climate) - climate change charity

We don't want to live in a world where a word like Beauternity is validated.

While we will acknowledge that $99 is a bargain compared with what you might pay elsewhere for similar names, there are several issues.

  1. The names suck.
  2. They have given no legal consideration (see el-goog above who will have Google sending one of their friendly cease and desist orders around five seconds after their website goes live).
  3. Anyone can just go on the website and snatch names for free. Why they would is a different issue.
  4. The names suck.
  5. makes about $20/name (after paying the crowdsourcers or is it crowdsourcee?). Accordingly, the volume would have to be huge to make any real money for their investors, which seems unlikely.
  6. Our friends at Wordlab already have a website doing essentially the same thing for free.
  7. Did we mention the names suck?
  8. Every name fails the SMILE & SCRATCH Test.

We don't know if crowdsourcing in general can be successfully monetized over the long run, but we will be very surprised if survives. BTW, their 37th day is July 13.