The Naming Game

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Curious Ways

The poet’s job is to invest the greatest possible meaning into the fewest possible words, then shape those words into something inherently beautiful. Naming is like extreme poetry – the objective is the same, but you’re limited to one word (two, max).

We’ve worked on lots of new products, businesses and brands over the years, and come up with lots of names for clients. But naming your own business is different. Not necessarily harder, but different.

We wanted the name to work hard, but look effortless. We wanted it to somehow convey several quite complex ideas, specifically:

  1. That we’re all about people – their thoughts and feelings, their instincts and philosophies, their flaws, desires, needs and expectations, their appetites and their unimaginable, infinite variety.
  2. That we’re launching at a time when something quite fundamental seems to be shifting in the way the world works. Brexit and Trump are the obvious headline acts for this global weirding, but there are other, more subtle signs that something is stirring deep in the collective mind.
  3. That this state of flux applies just as much to our industry as it does to the rest of the world. Things are changing, but no one knows what’s going to happen next. So the only way to prepare is to be ready to embrace change.

Which is quite a lot for a name.

One evening at Exmouth Market, we were chatting about all this with James, an old friend who was visiting from Italy.

“God”, he said, “moves in mysterious ways, lest one good custom should corrupt the world”. It’s from Tennyson’s Passing of Arthur. The dying king mansplains to the attendant ladies and Sir Bedivere that only change is constant, and any individual or institution that endures beyond its allotted time will eventually become irrelevant – even harmful to society.

Yes, it was a misquote. The actual lines are:

“The old order changeth, yielding place to new,

And God fulfils himself in many ways,

Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.”

But the sentiment was bang on. On the train back to Frome, we played around with the idea. Mysterious ways was too religious (that’s from a hymn composed by William Cowper in the 19th Century), but eventually, a few miles outside Whitchurch, Curious Ways came into the world.

Of course, none of this matters now – it was never going to matter. The name quickly loses its attachment to the rationale that brought it into being and just becomes your name.

But for us, it’s a poem – a narrative in two words, imbued with profound meaning, shaped into something inherently beautiful.

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