The dangers of meaning

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In my last post, I discussed factors to consider when choosing a company name. In it, I talked briefly about the importance of meaning:
“Ideally, we’d like a name that means something. There are a lot of Web 2.0 companies out there with seemingly nonsense names. Sure, it might be unique, but what does it mean? Anything? We’d at the very least be able to explain why it’s a good name in one sentence. It’d be even better if there was a clever anecdote explaining the history behind the name, but I can live without one in a pinch.”
But I forgot to mention one key tip – when soliticing feedback from friends and family on possible names, don’t tell them the meaning or backstory for any potential name.
The reason is simple: 99% of your (potential) users will never know, or even care to know the story behind your name. And when you’re asking people about their opinions about names, you want them to look through the eyes of users. You want to see what associations come to their mind, if they have trouble saying it, what their gut feeling is. Because in the end, those are some of the same feelings & thoughts your users will have.
We’ve had many requests to explain some of our names. Its a reasonable request, since many of our names are strange combinations of words or just completely made up. But we’ve resisted doing so, because the worst case scenario is that we get good feedback on a really bad name just because its got a clever (or touching, or hilarious, or personal) meaning or story behind it.

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