What's in a Nonsense Name?

2009-03-18-syfy2.jpgThe trend in giving your company a nonsense name reached a new high when Sci Fi channel announced it was changing its name to "Syfy."

Sci Fi Channel president Dave Howe explains the change to TV Week:

"It made us feel much cooler, much more cutting-edge, much more hip, which was kind of bang-on what we wanted to achieve communication-wise."

Considering bang-on and communication-wise, it's clear Mr. Howe has no bias against linguistic innovation.

"It's a call to action," Howe also said. "Look at the everyday and how you can turn it to the extraordinary. It's an aspirational, optimistic message about enhancing people's lives."

So, you see, "Syfy" is actually an aspirational, optimistic message about enhancing lives. Just like Gellin', Don't Worry Be Happy, and other such nonsense. And since nonsense can also be interpreted to mean anything, William Safire and Will Shortz can claim no reasonable beef against it.

2009-03-18-chumby2.jpgSo let's welcome Syfy to the nonsense-named media family, including Twitter (clever nonsense), Google (rich nonsense), Chumby (soft nonsense), Verizon (network nonsense), Wiki-anything (wiki-nonsense), and Accenture (still-smells-of-Enron nonsense).

2009-03-18-snuggie2.jpgWelcome also to the extended brotherhood, which includes Snuggie (body-hugging nonsense), Zima (girly-drink-for-men nonsense) and just about every pharmaceutical advertised in prime time. Say hi to Cialis, Selexa, Symbalta, and Lexipro (fear-for-your-liver nonsense).

I'm excluding a slew of wacky dot-com names (Frengo, Ooma, Wakoopa) because repeating them all aloud might accidentally cause rainfall or someone to rise from the dead. But I will include Hulu, even though it's actually an old Hawaiian term meaning "Do exactly what Alec Baldwin says."

2009-03-18-ringding3.jpgBefore you start thinking about this as some kind of nonsense revolution, know that we've actually been here before. As evidence, I offer the following nonsensical confections: Ring Dings, Ding Dongs, Twinkies, Ho-Hos, Haagen-Dazs, and Milli Vanilli.

What's in a name anyway? That which we call a Zooba by any other name -- say, BOMC2 -- would smell as sweet. The Huffington Post itself was almost called "Boobeleeboo" until lawyers said that was too suggestive.

So let's be proud of our nonsense, and just let our spell-checks sweat it out.

As the slogan for Syfy says, "Imagine greater."

(Though it should probably be "Just make it up.")