Thursday, July 28, 2005

Nobody Asked Me, But . . . (7/28/05)


Where did they get that name? In my generation everybody knew that HenryFord lent his name to the cars he built. The name of Ransom E. Olds was embodied in the name Oldsmobile--and the Reo, a marque that incorporated his initials. Today, strange new names identify dozens of products from automobiles to electronics. If you ever wondered about the origins of this new breed of names, here are their derivations:
Adidas. From the name of the founder, Adolf (ADI) DASsler.
Audi. Translation into Latin of the last name of the founder, August Horch, who left the Horch Company after five years and started another automobile company.
BMW. Initial letters of Bayerische Motoren Werke (Bavarian Motor Works).
Casio. From the name of the founder, Kashio Tadao.
Cingular. A nonstandard spelling of the word singular employed to gain attention.
Hitachi is an old place name meaning "sunrise.
Honda. From the name of its founder, Sochiro Honda.
Hotmail. Founder Jack Smith got the idea of accessing e-mail messages from anywhere in the world and chose HoTMaiL because it included the letters HTML, the language used to write web pages.
Hyundai means "the present age" or "modernity" in Korean.
JVC. The initial letters of the Japan Victor Company.
Kawasaki. From the name of its founder, Shozo Kawasaki.
Kia. A combination of the character ki, "to arise out of" and the letter a, for Asia. This South Korean automaker began as a bicycle parts manufacturer.
Kinko's. From the college nickname of the founder, Paul Orfalea, called "Kinko" because he had curly red hair.
Mazda. The name is that of the Zoroastrian deity, Ahura Mazda, perhaps because of its closeness to the name of the head of the company, Tenuji Matsuda.
McDonald's. From the family name of two brothers who started the first McDonald's restaurant in 1940.
Mitsubishi. Coined by founder Yataro Iwasaki in 1870. It means three parallelepipeds (a six-sided geometric figure) in Japanese. The design figures in its logo.
Nike. From the name of the Greek goddess of victory.
Nikon. From Nippon Kogaku, "Japanese Optical."
Nintendo. Composed of the three Japanese kanji characters nin-ten-do. The first two translate to "Heaven blesses hard work; do is a common Japanese ending meaning store.
Nissan. A combination from the company name Nippon Sangyo, which means "Japanese industry."
SAAB. From the initial letters of Svenska Aeroplan AktiBolaget (Swedish Airplane Company).
Samsung means "three stars" in Korean.
Sansui. Founded in Tokyo in 1947, the name Sansui translates to "mountain" plus "water."
Sanyo. The characters form the words, "three oceans."
Sony. From the Latin sonus meaning "sound." Sony was chosen because it can be pronounced easily in any language.
Sprint. From its parent company, Southern Pacific Railroad INTernal Communications.
Subaru. From the Japanese name for the constellation known as the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters. The company was formed in a merger of seven other companies.
Suzuki. From the name of its founder, Michio Suzuki.
Toshiba. Formed in a merger of TOkyo Denki (Tokyo Electric) and SHIBaurA Seisaku-sho (Shibaura Engineering Works).
Toyota. A variant of the founder's name, Sakichi Toyoda. Initially it was called Toyeda, but was next altered to what was felt to be better-sounding, Toyota.
Verizon. A portmanteau word blending VERitas, Latin for "truth," and horIZON
Volvo. From the Latin for "I roll." It was originally applied to a ball bearing.
Xerox. Inventor Chester Carlson chose this name for his dry-copying machine. The Greek root xer means "dry."
Yahoo. An acronym for Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle. The name yahoo was first used by Jonathan Swift in his Gulliver's Travels for a repulsive person who is barely human.

Word play. Ever hear of lost positives? These are words like sheveled and kempt, which some think formerly existed as positives of disheveled and unkempt. They are actually backformations produced by stripping common words of their prefixes. In the 1950s, this gave rise to word games that turned up many suggested lost positives, such as ane (inane), descript (nondescript), gruntled (disgruntled), digent (indigent), ruly (unruly) and pecunious (impecunious). NY Herald-Tribune columnist John Crosby even created "The Society for the Restoration of Lost Positives." Bernice Fitz-Gibbon, a leading retail advertising manager who coined the slogan, "It's smart to be thrifty" for Macy's and "Nobody but nobody undersells Gimbels" for its competitor. In an ad for teenage clothing, she admonished young women to be "Couth, Kempt and Sheveled."

As it turns out, however, couth is not a backformation from uncouth. Instead
It is an arcane word that appeared in Old English as cuth, meaning "known or familiar." During the Middle Ages the negative form uncouth appeared, with the sense of "unknown or unfamiliar." It later acquired the meaning it retains today: "outlandish, repellent and boorish." So couth deserves to be restored to full usage with its meanings of "suave, well-mannered and civilized."

Before their time. One cannot watch classic movies of the 30s and 40s without being struck by the amount of cigarette smoking that takes place in them. Cigarettes were useful props, helping actors to fill a pause between lines or make a scene more realistic.

Being a contract player in those days meant a far from glamorous life. Movies were shot in quick succession, even stars had to be on the set early and know their lines for that day's shooting. Many actors in swashbuckling roles performed their own derring-do stunts.

We have clues to the toll that working hard and playing hard must have taken. Consider the ages at which male movie stars of that period died and the causes. Accidental early deaths are excluded.)
Tyrone Power, 45 (heart attack)
Wayne Morris, 45 (heart attack)
Zachary Scott, 51, (lung cancer)
Humphrey Bogart, 57 (throat cancer)
Robert Taylor, 57 (lung cancer)
Clark Gable, 59 (heart attack)
Gary Cooper, 60 (lung cancer)
Errol Flynn, 60 (heart attack)
Franchot Tone, 63 (lung cancer)


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