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Word Rhythm Builds Character: 
Poetic Meter in Company Names

by Marcia Yudkin, Head Stork, Named At Last

Think about the impression you get from the following company names:

State Farm
Best Buy
Look Smart
Life Bricks

All sound extremely strong. The reason is that instinctively, native English speakers pronounce two-word names that each have one syllable with equal emphasis: not STATE farm or state FARM, but STATE FARM and so on.

Notice that the effect gets lost if you join the two words together into one. Seeing Lifebricks, you'd pronounce it LIFE bricks, not LIFE BRICKS. Now it's much less commanding and assertive.

Consider another rhythmic pattern that conveys strong character: 

Office Depot
Hewlett Packard
Firehouse Coffee

These names each have a two-syllable word that starts on a downbeat, followed by another two-syllable word with the same pattern of emphasis. Although this rhythm is a bit less forceful than the previous one, it comes across as steady and reliable.

Here is a third pattern:

Acronym Media
Epsilon Targeting
Enterprise Rent-A-Car
Manchester Caravans

With two consecutive three-syllable words that each start with a downbeat, the effect now is still balanced and pleasing. But the rhythm suggests more of a friendly, side-by-side attitude to you than rock-hard leadership.

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Now that you're sensitized to word rhythm (or meter, as poets call it), what about these examples?

Starwood Design
Vermont Coffee
Fantasies Ahead
Intermark Interactive

These all sound jumbled. The first two names come across as jerky or lurchy, because they reverse the stress in consecutive words: STAR wood de SIGN and ver MONT CO ffee. You'd improve them by tweaking their second word to match the emphasis of the first: STAR wood GRAPH ics and ver MONT ca FE. 

The other two names need much more tinkering, and perhaps a major overhaul, to sound good to the ear. Both FAN ta sies a HEAD and IN ter mark in ter ACT ive are awkward because no common poetic English rhythm has three or more unstressed syllables in a row. 

Even if you remember nothing - or never learned - about iambs (de DUM), trochees (DUM de), anapests (de de DUM), dactyls (DUM de de) and spondees (DUM DUM), they're nevertheless part of your experience of English. 

Now You Practice...

Rate these company names on their rhythm, then read my assessment and commentary:

Wells Fargo
Cave Creek Coffee
Market Intelligence
Volunteering International
Ronetta Rapid Response

Wells Fargo: This fits the pattern of State Farm and Best Buy, with one additional unstressed syllable, and the company therefore comes across as very strong and stable.

Cave Creek Coffee: This also echoes the rhythm of State Farm and Best Buy, extended with one more stressed syllable in a row and one additional unstressed one at the end.  It too comes across as a muscular, sturdy and solid brand.

Market Intelligence: The space between words here doesn't erase the fact that this has the same pleasing double-triple rhythm as Epsilon Targeting and Enterprise Rent-A-Car: MAR ket in TELL i gence.  Rhythmically, it works.

Volunteering International:  Long, multi-syllabic words usually sound very clunky when combined, and that's certainly the case here.  To improve a name like this, hunt for shorter substitutions for one or both long words.  Or rework one of the multi-syllabic words so it has the same pattern of emphasis as the other one.  Two mediocre fixes:  World Volunteers or Resolute Volunteers.  A better solution would be to scrap both long words in favor of a more creative naming approach, as with All the Saints.

Ronetsky Rapid Response:  Although the three initial Rs have visual impact, the phonetic pattern in this company name does not come across to the ear.  As with waves that cross each other from two conflicting directions, the rhythm does not resolve congenially.  Eliminating the middle word so it becomes Ronetsky Response brings definite improvement, since it then sounds like a repeated pattern with the last syllable omitted: ro NET sky res PONSE.

Stuck on thinking up or choosing your new company or product name?  Get help generating an impressively original business name or product name.

Copyright 2011 Marcia Yudkin.  No reprinting or republishing without written permission.

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