Thursday, March 8, 2012

Think before you pick a name

In a recent post I mentioned that a woman in Texas had thoughtlessly named her PR firm “Blabbermouth.” The dictionary says that a blabbermouth is a person who talks indiscreetly. I would be willing to bet that a poll of CEOs would rank “talking indiscreetly” as the #1 worst trait a PR firm could have.

Here’s another example of a thoughtless choice of a name. An article in Forbes explains how an organization can set up a “talent firewall” to retain talented employees.


In the real world, a firewall does not keep good things in.

A computer firewall (example depicted above) keeps bad things out: it keeps trespassers out of a computer network.

An architectural firewall keeps bad things in: it contains fires and prevents them from spreading to other parts of the building.

So, when the reader sees the phrase talent firewall, he conjures either of these two images. Because neither image is consistent with the phrase talent firewall, he concludes that the writer (or editor) was being thoughtless.

The Takeaway: When choosing a name, think. Imagine all the ways the reader may think about the name when he sees it in your copy. Remember, you can’t force words to do what you want them to do (see the eloquent Jacques Barzun on this point).

See disclaimer.

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