A Zyxpyx By Any Other Name


I have a friend ’round these parts whose name is Yvonne. She’s bright and friendly and has a great sense of humor and mispronounces her own name.

Yes she does.

Yvonne is a French derivation of John, related to Ivan and Johan and Joanne and Joanna and Jan and Ian and Sean and all those other John derivations. And the name is pronounced Ee-von.

Yvonne pronounces her name Yuh-von. It’s not like her parents purposely bestowed upon her an alternative to the name Ee-von. They thought they were naming her Ee-von but didn’t know how to pronounce it. So she’s Yuh-von.

I haven’t the heart — or maybe it’s the heartlessness — to bring this to Yvonne’s attention. Besides, she’s not alone.

Most Americans don’t seem to know how to pronounce the name Naomi. I’ve never quite understood how you get Nigh-oh-mee out of that spelling, but now we have people who think that’s their name.

Of course, the name is pronounced Nay-oh-mee.

My trusty sidekick at work correctly argues that your name is whatever you say it is. Sure, if you name your daughter “La-a,” you can call her Ladasha. You chose the name.

But if you name your kid Xavier, you’ve chosen a name that already exists. And the name Xavier is pronounced Zay-vyer, not Ex-ay-vyer. An “X” at the start of a word or name in English is pronounced like a “Z”. Think xylophone or xenophobic. (X-ray is a little different because it was literally an “X” ray.)

At this point you’re thinking — which puts you in a different class than me right off the bat — you’re thinking, what in the wide world of integrated marketing communications are you jabbering on about? Have you lost what small scattering of marbles were formerly clanking around in your head?

Au contraire, Pierres.

Shakespeare noted that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But he didn’t say anything in defense of a word like “pustule.” Because there is no way to make that word sound like something you’d want with your lunch.

“Hey Margaret, slap a pile o’ pustule on that ham sandwich, wouldja?” Doesn’t work.

Nor does President Melvin Finzheimer. Or Irving Poopsciewiecz. Or Gertrude Dolt.  (I’m showing great restraint in not mentioning how hysterical it would be to have a president named “Newt.”) How many billions and billions do you think McDonald’s would have served if the man who purchased the franchise from the McDonald brothers had renamed the restaurants after himself. Would you purchase a hamburger from Kroc’s?

Your company name is a bit like clothing: it reveals something about you, , even sometimes inadvertently. Google and Yahoo are telling us that they’re fun, geeky and maybe not too self-important. General Motors says more staid, perhaps even stodgy. A bank in my hometown was Dime Savings Bank. Didn’t inspire visions of wealth.

Hook, Obviouslee, Slant and Blue Ion intrigue, and suggest a certain creativity. Rawle Murdy, Davis, Bosworth live off the impressive reputations of their proprietors. Firms named for  people’s initials always struck me as evincing a lack of cleverness, unless the initials spell a word, like ELM or HAF. (My firm would be HAF-WIT Marketing. Hey, don’t say you weren’t warned.)

The point — besides the one atop my head — is that names matter because they communicate all kinds of things. Personally, I would take great care in picking a company name and I’d make sure I knew how to pronounce it.  Of course, Joe Theismann might disagree.


barry waldman
(but you can call me berry)


  1. “Berry”,

    This post is thought-provoking and quirky, kind of reminds me of you! Thanks for the call out to Obviouslee – we like to think we’re intriguing sometimes.


  2. No HAF-WITs at HAF Creative, Barry! :)

  3. Steve Mizel says:

    Hi Barry,

    I remember the Dime Saving Bank too. You’re judging the name based upon your relatively young age…compared to me anyway. 😉

    When they first began operating in 1859 and during the “Great Depression” (not the one of your recent memory), a dime was considered a lot of money. Perceptions change.

    Perhaps in the later part of the 20th century they should have renamed themselves the $50 savings Bank. That way maybe they could have survived into the 21st century.