|Naming a new product line|
Linguistic booby traps
Suppose that someone you know is planning to launch a new product line. He is thinking of using the name "Cranberry Widgets".
Now suppose that the word fragment "cran" is harmless in English, but in another major world language it is a word whose meaning is ugly and unpleasant.
Even worse, any member of the target market who happened to know what "cran" means in the other language would likely construe it as an insult.
What advice would you give to your friend about whether "Cranberry" was a good name for his product line?
He means well, he thinks people would have positive associations with cranberries, the name is harmless in English, but the word fragment "cran" is toxic in another major language.
Choose another name.
We live with instant and widely accessible world wide communications today, there is probably almost zero chance that choosing a name with the potential to insult anyone is going to go unnoticed and uncommented on.
It's bad enough when someone unknowingly stumbles into that kind of situation. Doing knowingly is a another situation altogether.
Not worth the risk if you ask me.
In fact, in the circumstances described in the OP, if the client insisted on going ahead with the "cran" name, ....
.... I'd dump them as a client.
Unless at least some of his customers are speakers of the other major language in which cran is a bad thing, I would not change it.
You'd be hard pressed to find a syllable that doesn't mean something rude in some language, somewhere. So the question is: will the proposed name really affect sales of this specific product in the client's specific market?
Over at, I think, snopes dot com in their discussion of the "nova" urban legend, they present this analogy: Suppose you used "notable" as a brand name for furniture. Would your English-speaking clients avoid dining-room sets with this brand name because, as the name says, it includes no table?
We've all met people whose surnames made us giggle quietly because part of the name sounds like some Bad Word in English. But you don't see them rushing out to change their names.
Now, on the other hand, if a significant part of your market fervently believes that it's bad luck to start any venture on the 23rd of the month, do keep an eye on the calendar.
|speakers of the other major language |
Only a small percentage of the target market would be native speakers of the other language, but many would have studied it in school.
If someone sees the problem, they won't be able to "un-see" it, and the "cran" meaning in the other language is so negative and so inappropriate that it would only be a matter of time until someone takes public offence.
Even those who didn't comment publicly would feel pain about it.
|hard pressed to find a syllable that doesn't mean something rude in some language |
Agreed, but this isn't about some obscure dialect, the problematic overlap is with a word in a language that many in the target market will have studied.
The Snopes example of "notable" vs "no table" would be fodder for jokesters, but not likely to make anyone feel insulted or hurt.
The other-language meaning of "cran" would.
|bad enough when someone unknowingly stumbles into that kind of situation. |
Whoever suggested the name did so without realizing the problem .... I hope.
I would suggest you the same thing ,choose a different name. I would not advice you to go for any kind of ambiguous names which have the potential to create confusion among the clients. So taking the safer side, choosing a somewhat unambiguous name would be better for your business.
Choose another name buckworks.
If it were my business / my decision you could bet your boots I'd still be on the hunt for something else.
However, the decision makers don't seem to be seeing anything outside their own visions of sweetness and light.
|will the proposed name really affect sales of this specific product in the client's specific market? |
Yes, I'm convinced it would harm sales.
Users who didn't know what "cran" means would not be affected.
But for anyone who knew and was uncomfortable about it, it would be a lot harder for them to feel good about the products.
I'm happy to report that my cries of woe have been heard and the decision makers have agreed to look for another name.
It won't be easy ... but going forward they'll be far more conscious of the need to watch out for hidden linguistic gotcha's.
I've got this nebulous impression that "cran" actually means something pretty foul in Polish, but I suppose you just made that up as an example :(
Yes, "cran" was just an example, but you're on the right track.
The syllable "cran" has no independent meaning in English, which is why I thought it made a good example.
But in the other language, "cran" is a real word whose meaning is so at odds with what the marketing message should be that it would have been a ticking time bomb for the brand.