My six year old recently finished Kindergarten. While he learned many different things he learned this year, perhaps his biggest accomplishment was mastering basic reading and writing. In Kindergarten writing courses the teachers are not so much focused on accuracy of spelling and penmanship. Instead they more focus on methodology. In other words, children are taught to sound out the words and spell them how they sound. So “move” might be spelled “moov” and “enough” might be spelled “enuf.”
While my son is not be qualified to work as a lawyer, doctor or university professor any time soon, he might be ready to work in a tech sector marketing role helping to suggest new names. Why? Because these days words that are spelled like they sound (rather than with proper English) have become extremely popular for both company and product names.
Consider companies such as Flattr – a Swedish social microdonation startup; Tumblr – the blogging site which was recently acquired by Yahoo; or Fiverr – an online marketplace for crowdsourcing microwork. Each of these are slightly mispelled variation of a popular word. And don’t forget Tibbr – TIBCO software’s social enterprise networking product that allows you track objects (versus people).
Misspelled words are not really a new trend in the tech sector. Google is, in fact, a mispelled word that technically should be Googol. Social bookmarking sites such as Digg and del.icio.us, both misspelled, were also both introduced almost ten years ago. Flickr was launched around the same time (circa 2004). Below is a list I compiled of other examples:
- Tibbr (TIBCO)
What is driving this trend in misspelled words? No doubt, the challenges associated with acquiring domain names, trademarks, registrations and other copyrights in various countries is a key reason why so many are choosing variations on common words. But the use of a misspelled word can also communicate a company’s personality. Most of the startups taking this approach are not afraid to break the rules when it comes to marketing themselves. This approach correlates with the disruptive nature of their business models.
Are misspelled words a bad thing for society? While English professors may not be positive on this growing trend, I suspect it is overall a good thing for the world. Using variations of words opens more possibilities for creative and memorable names. And certainly, non-native English speakers must favor this approach as the names are easier to pronounce because they are spelled much like they sound.
Here is a link to cool site that analyzes naming trends if you have more interest in this topic.