Changing a Name Changes Everything
I have loved Japanese edamame for some time. Today I found out they were soy beans. Ouch! Names can really reframe perceptions and gain new levels of acceptance. Before I continue let me lace up my “running shoes.” I don’t wear “sneakers” any more.
Here is what set me thinking about name evolution. In the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof writes about one of the world’s leading specialists studying wild dogs in Africa. In his drive to change the negative stereotype of the words “wild dogs”, he has rebranded them “painted dogs.” What he has been able to do is transform the perception of a reviled varmint into an exotic animal that should be preserved. Very clever.
We no longer have “toilet paper”. We use “bathroom tissue”. We don’t “gamble”, but go “gaming”. We would never eat “dolphin”, but “mahi mahi” is a menu favorite. On weekends, I don’t go to the “garbage dump” any longer, I visit the “sanitary landfill”. “Chemgrass” is “AstroTurf”. “Calf stomach” is “sweet breads”. “Battle fatigue” is “post traumatic stress disorder”. We don’t buy “toothpaste” any more… we look for “whitening gel.” No-one “searches the web” any more… they “google.”
Think about product names. “Healthy Choice” has reframed “Diet Deluxe”. I watch TV on my “Sony”, not a “Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation” flat screen. We buy our electronics at Best Buy, rather than at their predecessor name “Sound of Music.” And pay for things thru “PayPal” rather than the original names – “Cofinity” and “X.com.”
Net, names really do make a difference, and great thought should be given to using them to their fullest.
Here are some names that could use improvement. They all suffer from negative stereotyping: Pitbulls, Spam (cooked meat), Post Office, New Jersey, Lindsay Lohan, Baconnaise.
All additions to the list are welcome.