Rhodri Marsden: The name of the game is the name game... and it's really hard

Life on Marsden

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Humans are terrible at naming things. For the few we get right (eg Twix) there are millions of examples of failure (eg Hemel Hempstead, Nissan Qashqai, Jermajesty Jackson). I'm no branding expert, but if well-resourced multinational companies are giving products names such as LE26C350D1WXXU, what chance do we stand of naming things properly?

There's a house in Islington called "Sea View Cottage", a kebab shop on the Uxbridge Road inexplicably named "Roast Broast", a three-year-old child somewhere in London by the name of Fox London Temperley von Bennigsen Mackiewicz, a creepy restaurant in Wimbledon called "Watch Me" – all examples of simultaneous over-thinking, under- thinking, rushing to meet a deadline and then a nagging feeling you've got it wrong.

Rich evidence can be found in gig listings. Musicians aren't renowned for linguistic dexterity; you only need to look at song titles such as "Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman". But band names provide a staggeringly evocative case-study into collective folly. You get names evoking puzzling imagery (Lime Headed Dog, Arseful Of Chips), ludicrous neologisms (Astro-henge), names that, when shouted in someone's ear over loud music, won't be heard properly (Antlered Man), names people can't actually say (Flameproof Moth), misconceived forays into the notion of alliteration and rhyme (Horse Concourse) and bad jokes (Any USB Port In A Storm).

I've just joined another band to stop me sitting around thinking about things too much. We'd been happy not to force the issue of choosing a name, but we booked a rehearsal the other day and the guy taking the booking asked what we were called. Our drummer, Tommy, said "Oh, just put Tommy." The guy replied, "No, you have to give me a band name." Tommy said that we didn't have one. "Well, I need one." Tommy sighed. "All right," he said, "put The Paedophiles." There was a pause. "I can't put that." "Well," said Tommy, "it's either The Paedophiles or Tommy." The chap sniffed. "OK, I'll put Tommy." Our primary consideration when choosing a name has now become "something that will annoy the bloke at the rehearsal room". Top of the list is The Wankers. As I say, humans are terrible at naming things.


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