We often don’t think about the meaning behind company names. Sometimes when we are first introduced to a new name, we might think it sounds a bit strange but gradually, and without us really noticing, it becomes a part of our vocabulary. Eventually we can’t really remember a time when the word Amazon didn’t conjure up the idea of online shopping before we think of the rainforest or river. It’s interesting to look at the meanings behind the household name brands around us, and that’s just what we’ll do now.
The name for the wireless technology Bluetooth comes from the 10th century Viking king of Denmark and Norway Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson. Bluetooth is the anglicised version of Blåtand, a nickname given to the king that was first documented in 1140. There are a couple of theories as to how he earnt this epithet, the most self-explanatory being that he had an obvious bad and discoloured tooth. Now, I know what you’re thinking and I’ll admit that blue teeth aren’t a dental problem that I’ve run across either but in Old Norse blár was used to denote a dark colour and in this sense it could feasibly be used to describe a black, rotten tooth. Another theory does away with the tooth entirely and explains that the tan element of the name comes from a corruption of the English word thegn (used to describe a chief) into the Old Norse language. Coupled with the usage of blár to mean dark, his nickname could have meant “dark chieftain”. When the Bluetooth developer Jim Kardach was trying to name his technology he was inspired by a historical novel he was reading at the time called The Long Ships by Frans. G. Bengtsson which is set during Harald Bluetooth’s reign. As King Harald unified the tribes of Denmark and brought them together with parts of Sweden and Norway he was seen as the perfect symbol for a technology that connects people. It’s more than just a name too, the Bluetooth logo is a combination of the runes for King Harald’s initials.
Previously known as Blue Ribbon Sports, Nike was renamed in 1964 after the Greek goddess of victory. Nike Chairman, Philip Knight, recently cleared up the long-lived confusion over how you say the name, it’s Nikey, not Nike. Now you know.
The search engine Google got its name from a misspelling of the word googol, which is the name for the digit 1 followed by one hundred 0s. In case you’re wondering what that looks like, wonder no more, it’s: 10000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000. The name was coined by the 9-year-old nephew of American mathematician Edward Kasner in 1920. Other, decidedly less catchy, names for this number are ten duotringintillion, ten thousand sexdecillion and ten sexdecillard.
Short but sweet, Blackberry was named thus as the buttons on the phone looked like the small drupelets on a blackberry. Never heard of a drupelet before? Me neither. They are the little individual bits on a blackberry or raspberry and the word comes from the Latin drupa, meaning wrinkled olive. Every day is a school day, huh?
Starbucks is such a well-known name these days, but when you think about it, the name doesn’t make any reference to the coffee it sells. Starbuck is the chief mate in Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick, but then this has nothing to do with coffee either! The name actually came about after a discussion about the advertising power of words beginning with “st” and then the discovery of a mining town called “Starbo”, which put one of the founders in mind of the Moby-Dick character. Before settling on Starbucks, they also toyed with the name Pequod, the name of the whaling ship in the novel but ultimately decided that a cup of Pequod didn’t sound quite as palatable.
Now you know a little more of the stories behind these household brands, you can feel smug and knowledgeable as you drink your Starbucks while you wear your Nikes, checking out Google on your Bluetooth-enabled Blackberry! Do you know any interesting facts about brand names? Get it touch and let us know!