May 19, 2004


A book that looks interesting, though I haven't read it: Alex Frankel's "Wordcraft: the Art of Turning Little Words into Big Business".

Nathan Bierma at Nathan's Notebook offers a blizzard of interesting Wordcraft links: his own Chicago Tribune review, on-line academic lectures on naming at Stanford (from a course on The Language of Advertising) and Penn, and the 1997 Wired article out of which Frankel's book was developed. Nathan also provides the last graf of his review, cut by some merciless Tribune editor:

"Of course, this kind of inspection could backfire, as Nunberg observed last year in the New York Times. "As advertisers have known for a long time," he wrote, "no audience is easier to beguile than one that is smugly confident of its own sophistication.""

Wordlab quotes David Kippen's slightly skeptical review, which says that "If a silly name like Accenture strikes you as "forward-thinking," you may be spending too much time hanging around boardrooms and breathing in Magic Marker fumes." Kippen ends with this:

... when the juicy anecdotes start flying, it's hard to begrudge [Frankel] his occasional swigs of BlackBerry Kool-Aid. Did you know that the poet Marianne Moore had a long correspondence with an automobile namer, from which the car names Civic and Diamante may eventually have sprung? Or that the consulting firm that coined Viagra is itself named -- I swear -- Wood Worldwide.

Blogcritics says that the book a "218-page-long puffed-up magazine article", and that "Chapter 7, on Viagra, is the only one worth reading carefully, and that only because the author explains the intricacies of the FDA's rules on drug naming." This is the most negative review I've seen.

Frankel has a weblog, but as of today, its only post (from May 7) says "This is a test." The book does have a web site with actual content, though, including links to other magazine articles that he's written on the subject.

For licensing information about "snuggle and all derivatives thereof ...; the adjective parsimonious; the preposition of; and the nouns crump, ether, parsley, helicopter, oligarchy,and rhodium", you'll have to check here at Language Log Lexical Industries with Dr. Geoffrey Pullum, Proprietor.

Posted by Mark Liberman at May 19, 2004 09:27 AM