Tuesday, September 07, 2010

What’s in a Name?

My business partner and I are in the process of selecting a name for the Language Consultation and Translation Company we are hoping to open. Names really are tied closely to both the language and the culture from which they come; it is hard as an outsider to pick a name that will resonate with native speakers.

Three years ago I was walking to class, when I was stopped by a few local students who wanted my advice in choosing a good English name for a hotel. I asked what it's name was in the original language, and tried not to laugh as they seem to go on and on, with a long flourishing name.

“So in English that is literally ‘Imagine Peace and Happiness Everyday Hotel’” she told me proudly “What do you think? Is that a good name?”

I shook my head, “It is too long to be a good name and it is way too cutesy”

“What about ‘Imagine Peace and Happiness Hotel’?”

I shook my head again. “You could try just calling it ‘Imagine’”

“No,” she said firmly “ What about ‘Everyday Peace and Happiness Hotel?’”

We were nearing my classroom building and I was getting frustrated. “I already gave you my suggestion as to what I think most native English speakers would like for a name”. And with that I quickly dismissed myself from the decision making process.
Skip ahead in time until last week. My business partner (who is also from North America), and I were trying to come up with good local names to register our company under. The form said we needed five names in case our top choices were already taken. Most of the names we liked were two words, short and sweet type names, although we had only come up with four suggestions. I needed to fill in the fifth spot, so I wrote in a joke, just to make my business partner laugh.

As a joke I had taken a local saying which basically means “One heart and one mind”. It is kind of a cliche way of talking about being unified. The word they use for ‘mind’ is pronounced very similarly to the word for translation. So I switched out the last word and wrote ‘One Heart and One Translation’. My business partner saw it chuckled and said “Funny, but no way, it is too long”

One of our local friends accompanied us to the office, she saw the list of names and her eyes were immediately drawn down to the bottom of the list “Oh is this the one you are going to use? It is so meaningful”

“No that was just a joke, we don’t really like that name, we just needed a fifth option”

“Oh” she said sadly

After seeing her reaction my business partner grabbed the list and asked a group of random people which name they liked the best. Everyone resonated with the long and cumbersome cutesy choice. Remembering how much I disliked having my opinion as an English speaking discounted in picking an English name and not wanting my own culturally based pig headed preference to hold back our company, we decided to listen to the masses and use our final option as the number one pick.

We are now officially ‘One Heart and One Translation Translation and Consultation Company’. With such a solid name blazing a trail for us, I can’t help but imagine peace and happiness everyday for us in the business world.

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