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July 2, 2007 | Tate Linden
Quite a few of our clients often call into question one of the most basic assumptions we tell them to make. The assumption? If a name can be shortened in any way - via acronyms, dropping syllables, or just using the first portion of the name - your customers will find and use it.

(The companion parable to this - that you should never try to create your own abbreviated name from your full length name unless your clients force the issue - is something I'll address another time.)

Most recently a client protested that I was being overly pessimistic and that people aren't that lazy. Here's what they said in as close as I can get to an exact quote:
That's an overreaction, Tate. You should have more faith in the human race, nyo? We're not that lazy.
Perhaps you can guess which word I'm going to point out as proving my point.

No, it isn't the apostrophe-"s" of "That's". It's "nyo."

If we can't take the time to pronounce a two syllable thought ("You Know") then how can we expect ourselves to say the long version of anything?

If you examine where this particular example of truncation and shortening comes from I think you'll find that it traces back something like this:
  1. Do you know what I mean?
  2. Ya know what I mean?
  3. Know what I mean?
  4. You know?
  5. Y'know?
  6. Nyo?
  7. (and very recently) Ye-o?
Listen closely next time you're having a conversation. The verbal shorthand we're using for "You know?" has almost nothing to do with the letters contained in the words of the phrase. We've got a definite "y" sound and an "oh" sound - but everything else seems to have fallen away.

I'm sure there are linguists out there that would be upset about this for all sorts of reasons. And I'm certain there are others that show this as proof that our language is healthy and adapting. My only reason for bringing it up is to show that we're always going to try to make things easier for ourselves.

It isn't General Electric, it's GE. It isn't Kentucky Fried Chicken - it's KFC.

And Stokefire? You'll never see us call ourselves "SF" or any other shortening. It's one of the reasons why we don't use mid-Caps in our name. Midcaps promote the use of acronyms and abbreviations. We figure if we're going to go to the expense of creating a name for ourselves and printing it on business cards we probably shouldn't be using a name that begs to be abbreviated. After all - we try hard to get our name in front of our prospective partners and clients... why would we want to double our effort by putting two names out there? (The real one and the abbreviated one.)

We endeavor to have a name that doesn't go the way of "Do You Know What I Mean" and instead begs to be sounded out. Maybe even emphasized. And we endeavor to create those for our clients. Sure, there's power in GE, KFC, and IBM - but those names have millions of dollars of marketing to keep them in the minds of prospective clients. For companies that wish to be a bit more economical with their marketing dollars it makes sense to get a name that doesn't break down into an acronym.

Seems to be working well for Google, doesn't it?
2 Comments
Martin Saenz July 2, 2007 7:03 PM

Hello Tate, hope you are doing well. I refer to my company Signs by Saenz as SBS all the time. Funny your blogging on this. Based on how fast paced the world is you have to shorten things, and I feel that if someone shortens my name they are thinking of my name and that's a compliment. Started a blog with a partner about a month ago. Come check us out if you get a chance. http://www.whygosolo.blogspot.com/

John Xavier July 16, 2007 7:08 AM

I've also heard "Nah'mean?" being used for "Know what I mean?".