At the end of each year, while linguists and lexicographers cast votes for words of the year, I'm compiling a different list: the brand names that distilled the mood of the previous twelve months. To narrow the field, I add another criterion: the brand names must have linguistic or onomastic significance — onomastics being the study of names.  Continue reading...
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When the ABC-TV sitcom "Black-ish" debuted in September, it joined a growing set of titles and brands built on the odd little ish suffix. There's a lot more to ish than "sort of" and "more or less." Here's a brand-by-brand rundown of the ish spectrum.  Continue reading...
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In the world of branding, coined and contorted names often hog all the attention. Less commented-on are the successful contemporary brand names with long pedigrees: "real" dictionary words that have been used by English speakers for centuries.  Continue reading...
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Long before the advent of air conditioning, ice cream, sherbet, and their frozen cousins provided edible relief for summer heat — if you were rich enough to afford them. Today, these icy treats are democratic and diverse, and their names, both generic and trademarked, tell rich stories about language and history. Here are some of the tastiest.  Continue reading...
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In mid-March the convention and visitors' bureau for Cleveland, Ohio, unveiled a new branding campaign for the city of about 400,000. The campaign, developed after "years of research" and many focus groups, had a theme, a logo, a website, and a hashtag. What it didn't have, the bureau insisted, was a slogan.  Continue reading...
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Easter, which this year falls on April 20, is an important religious holiday for millions of Christians. It's also a major candy holiday, now second only to Halloween in the United States. But there's more to Easter candy than sugar and food dye: there's also some fascinating linguistic and brand history.  Continue reading...
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In February, Nokia announced a new hybrid device called Nokia X. No, the name is not a generic placeholder until something catchier comes along. It's the official name of the phone. Mysterious and austere, simple yet highly symbolic, the name is representative of a dominant branding trend of our era. In nearly every category of commerce, X marks the spot.  Continue reading...
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