Laban Tall at UK Commentators:

“There’s a small Cultural Studies paper waiting to be written on names – how the Amalgamated Union of Wire-Drawers, Fettlers and Allied Trades turns in thirty years into something called ‘Together’ or ‘Unity’, British Insulated Cable and Radio Limited into ‘Xantippe’ or ‘Xenith’, and the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment via ‘Defence Research Agency’ into ‘QinetiQ’. The key being that the old, wordy, literate names actually described what the organisation did, the new ones conceal it and are post-literate, logos in letter form.”

And let us not forget the harebrained attempt by the Royal Mail to “rebrand” itself as Consignia.

6 thoughts on “Nomenclature

  1. I’d like to know what “the Tote” is. Is it something that’s already been through one of those rebranding exercises?

  2. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but suppose the government were to sell a majority share in “Royal Signals and Radar Establishment” the tabloids would cry-foul, patriots would beat their fists in the air and heads would metaphorically roll.

    On the other hand supposing it were re-branded to something meaningless like QnetiQ, an improperly punctuated name that reeks of frivolity. We could sell such a company to Fidel Castro a hundred times before anybody paid it the blindest bit of notice.


  3. Ah, a Totalizator Agency Board. I have liven a clean life. Now that I’ve looked it up, I’ve discovered that “totalizators” were giant Edwardian mechanical computers! I thought it was all done with ticket machines and chalk boards.

    “… In 1913 [Sir George Julius] installed his first totalizator on Ellerslie Racecourse in N.Z. and the second at Gloucester Park in Western Australia in 1916. The installation at Ellerslie was the first automatic totalizator in the world and although it looked like a giant tangle of piano wires, pulleys and cast iron boxes and many racing officials predicted that it would not work, it was a great success.”

    Bicycle chains and sprockets are mentioned on that page too. It’s probably all done in little Dieboldesque booths now though, so I’ll continue to give the racetrack a wide berth.

  4. The name changes Laban Tall notes were made to escape implied obligations, but it’s also done to escape bad reputations: in 2007 the suspiciously incompetent Diebold Election Systems changed its name to “Premier Election Solutions”; in 2003 the tobacco company Philip Morris changed its name to “Altria.”

    (Sorry, I should have said this first rather than wittering on about totalizator machines.)

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