Andrew McCrum says: Sound symbolism is linked to a long held theory from psycholinguistics called Cohort Theory. This states that the beginning of words which sound like the beginnings of other words are associated with those words during retrieval from the mental lexicon. This is thought to be one way in which analogy works. Other theories such as Rhyme and Suffix Theory offer competing views. Glanbia, by Cohort Theory analysis, suggests both the positive associations of the words “glad” and “glamour”, but with some influence from the more downbeat medical word “glands”. More of the word “glands” is present in the name than either “glamour” or “glad”, identifying primarily with negative medical and physiological associations. Rhyming with Gambia is of neutral aesthetic association. But taken with the geographical -ia suffix Glanbia links by analogy with countries and states, giving the name some territorial, expansionist meaning. ©

The company says: the new name for Irish food and dairy group Avonmore Waterford. The name was created by Corporate Edge. It combines two gaelic words, “glan”, meaning pure or clear, and “bia”, meaning food.


Andrew McCrum says: The word is grammatically a present participle meaning “shining like a light”. It is hard to extract oneself from this Latinate and learned, authoritative sense. The word “lucid” is also a component of the meaning of Lucent.

The company says: Lucent Technologies is the systems and technology company part of AT&T. Name generation and branding was by Landor Associates in San Francisco. The name is intended to reflect clarity of thought, purpose and vision, and have a technical feel, according to Lucent chairman and chief executive Henry Schacht.


Andrew McCrum says: The shortness and high pitch of the vowels supplement the slightly racy, quixotic superficial senses of v. The participial Latin word is distinct from the finite or infinitive, in that an activity is being described which is continuant from some unspecified time in the past to the present. The nasal n distinguishes continuation as a heavily damped, low pitch resonance, where resonance is sensed by the nerve fibres in the bone joints around the nasal cavity. The name sound symbolically suggests durability mixed with modernity and chic, tempered with learning and authority from the Latin form.

The company says: Vivendi is the renamed Companie Générale des Eaux. The group has energy, transport, construction, property, telecommunications and media interests as well as water. The name is easy to pronounce and can be rapidly recalled, and is meant to create a dynamic and happy feel.


Andrew McCrum says: In this name, The Prisoner looms like a shadow over any attempts to offer sound symbolic analysis. However, in an impressionistic analysis, the word “Zen” spreads mystical, religious signals like a humming mantra. The name suggests modernity and nonconformity.

The company says: A working title for NatWest’s information service currently on trial. NatWest managing director of retail services Tim Jones came up with at the name after visiting Port Meirion in Wales the scene of The Prisoner TV series. Consumers, he surmised, no longer want to be treated as numbers, hence Project Zenda, derived from the book Prisoner of Zenda.


Andrew McCrum says: Name splicing, here, and high vowels suggest sharpness, neatness, friendliness and innovation but in a generic brand name. The first two sounds In-, a Latin affix, suggests an absence of dynamism and a location at a secure central place, supplemented by the meaning of Ancient Greek sys “union”. The semantics of the first part of the word identify with invention suggesting in sum innovation within defined limits and a minimum of inconvenience or awkwardness.

The company says: The proposed new name for the BTR/Siebe merger to create the world’s biggest automated systems and controls company. The name, generated by Interbrand Newell and Sorrell, alludes to the ideas of inventiveness and automated systems.


Andrew McCrum says: This Italian word with two rs offers them to be rolled or trilled. Plato described the trilled r or rho as “an instrument… expressing all motion”. At one time it was taboo among Russian school girls to use the sound r because of its aggressive gender associations. In Russian and Greek, R means, on one level, intense movement or sensation as in the Russian words striká “to take to one’s heels, run for it”, and strikáv “to sting (with a nettle)”. The energy and vitality in this word, present also in the high vowel, is, aesthetically moderated by the rhyming of the initial and final a.

The company says: Arriva is a UK transport operator which was previously known as Cowie. Bamber Forsyth generated the name in conjunction with the client. “Although not a real word, the connotative meaning is arrival,” according to a Bamber Forsyth spokeswoman. “It is meant to be upbeat and imply travel.” n

Andrew McCrum is a linguistic consultant. He is currently studying for a PHD in sound symbolism at the University of Sussex

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