What's in a name?

A recent CNN business news headline "Oracle sues Google over Android" struck a nerve and posed a deep question from one of my frequent correspondents, part time philosopher and good friend. "Just when did it all start to go wrong"?

It was really not long ago in the perspective of modern American history when things, and the language we used to describe those things, made perfect, or nearly perfect sense. We won the wars in which we engaged, disengaged from them peacefully with actual declarations of surrender , were not confronted by moral dilemmas and we all seemed to get along with our neighbors and each other.

In "The good old days", we could read about American companies and their products in words and language that described a grown up and businesslike reality.  The names of our leading corporations were General Motors, International Business Machines, General Electric, Standard Oil, American Telephone & Telegraph, Bell Telephone, United States Steel, The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company; not cute names, but effective and descriptive. There was no confusion about what these enterprises did or what products they made.

Fast forward to now, where our products and corporations have a distinctly science fiction flavor. Oracle? Google? Droid? Yahoo?  Android, Java? Each of these terms can be found in a dictionary, however, that exercise will only confuse, not clarify. But there are more (actually it is never ending!). What to make of; Google, Picasa, Yahoo, Twitter, Linux, Cisco, Blackberry, Kindle, iPod? The most admired computer company in the world is named after a fruit!

Over 25 years ago, Standard Oil of New Jersey, as it was known, even though it's head quarters were in Texas, spent $200 million (back when $200,000,000 was not a Goldman executives bonus)  to change the name from ESSO (a phonetic version of Standard Oil abbreviation, S. O.) to Exxon. The corporate suits justified the outrageous expenditure with "It will make our marketing initiatives much more efficient", a time tested claim. We are told that the reason Enco (Energy Company), the first choice was rejected is that it translated to "Stalled Car" in the Japanese language. No good for a gasoline producer. God knows what Google means in Farsi. We should find that out, it may account for why we are so hated by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs. Perhaps BP should consider a name change to say "Amoco", in keeping with cute and tradition. Indeed, before BP trashed an old brand, it was Amoco (Standard Oil of Indiana). That doesn't make sense; perhaps it was formerly something like American Oil Company. Now I know why they selected Exxon, it made no sense whatsoever.

I suppose we should not be surprised at the rush to new concepts in company and product names, we see it in the modification of language in our conversation and electronic communications. Texting and emailing's persistent quest for efficiency results in words and abbreviations; LOL, 2GTBT, ?4U, @TEOTD, LFD, LIC, OMG and LLGB  that look more like the output from a Stenotype machine than language. FYI, and the uninformed LOL (Laughing out loud), ?4u (I have a question for you), @TEOTD (At the end of the day), LFD (Left for the day), and my three favorites, LIC (Like I care), OMG (O My God) and LLGB (Love later and God Bless). Too bad there is not a heart symbol on the keyboard. It would be so useful to be able to simply key in, I ♥ U.

But I digress. The time when the wheels began to wobble and finally fell off the wagon of society and culture is when language began the trip down the road to obscurity, cuteness and meaninglessness.  That and the introduction of Count Chocula breakfast cereal.