The horror and confusion of some corporations

Corporate naming has gotten out of hand. Ad and branding agencies are taking advantage of the English language while teachers everywhere shudder. The next thing you know, children in spelling bees across the nation will be affected.

Companies are intentionally misspelling their names, which leads to confusion and pronunciation problems. It’s to the point where we have to put emphasis on different syllables to stand out. Before you know it, Webster’s will have to print alternative spellings. Cases in point:

    Verizon Communications Inc. As in “Out on the Verizon, I saw a verd of very vappy customers.” Then again, it sure beats the name Bell Atlantic.Zhone. What is wrong with just plain Zone? What does the “h” stand for?Qwest. While intentionally misspelling a name can be a nice touch, here it starts to sound like a highway store (Qwik Stop, Git-n-Go, Kountry Kettle).Sytris Networks. So what does fruit have to do with it, anyway?Cannect Communications. What are the chances people will confuse it with the company Connect? Then there’s Konnect, not to mention Connexion, Connectivity, Connecta, Connectix, Conectiv and Connecticut. When someone calls one of these names out at a trade show, who answers? There are just too many “C” companies.Avaya, Cerent, Adero, Zembu. These are totally made up, not to mention they sound like tribal network gods.Gnutella. This is an incomprehensible name. We know what a gnu is and what a nut is, but tella? And what does it mean when you put them together?Vizzavi. We guess this is supposed to be a take off on “vis-a-vis,” but we want to pronounce it Vi – ZAH – vi.Broadxent. We have no idea how to pronounce this. Ditto with Eziaz – is it “Easy As” or “Easy Ass”? You make the call.

Compound nouns are a quick and easy way to come up with a corporate name. But some combinations work better than others. We understand that broad implies broadband, and wing is something that takes flight. But Broadwing? What the heck’s a Broadwing? New York City’s response to Buffalo for appetizers?

And how about Lightyear? Maybe other “Toy Story” characters will follow. Imagine if this company joined forces with the application service provider Buzzsaw: “Buzzsaw Lightyear – To infinity and beyond!”

Then there’s airBand. Perhaps when you’re hungry from all that energy spent playing in your airBand, you can relax and have a spicy, hot Broadwing and some Jamcracker.

Then there are all the “e” and “i” derivations. Sure, it catches the electronic and Internet ideas, but what happens when eBusiness becomes just business? When you see companies with names such as, don’t you just think we’ve taken this a bit too far?

We must remember that words have connotations associated with them. Call us old-fashioned, but we like a name to imply something about the firm. What do these say about the company:

    Paceon . . . Covered by most HMOs and approved by the AMA.Atmosphere . . . Hmm, think they want to IPO the company?Does Digital Island sound proprietary – and isolated – to you?If you use Avalanche Networks, will your network come down around your ears?Rhythms . . . Is the network going to go up and down?Sylantro Systems . . . We always want Mexican food after talking about Sylantro.Atoga Systems . . . Atoga! Atoga! Atoga! Anyone seen Plutarski?Celox Networks . . . How do you spell relief? C-E-L-O-X, the first telecom antacid.TriZetto is a cracker, isn’t it?Incisent has teeth to it.Sycamore and Juniper have a green thing going.We never thought Lucent was a very lucid choice.

The real test: Can we laugh at ourselves? TeleChoice – what the heck’s that? Well, 15 years ago, TeleChoice was founded to help companies decide which long-distance company to choose. (No, don’t bother calling, we don’t do that anymore.) Now we do strategic planning for the world’s top telecom firms, helping them figure out which markets to enter and which niches to chase.

The test of time? The name still works. Of course it does sound like a telemarketing group. It’s often confused with IntelliChoice, which tells you which car quality is best, we think. At least it’s better than the name of one of our programming subcontractors – Pop Fizz Berserk, Inc.

Briere is CEO and Gage is vice-president of TeleChoice, a market strategy consultancy for the telecommunications industry. They can be reached at