United States: R&J – Act II, Scene II

Last Updated: May 17 2018
Article by Brian DeFoe
What's in a name? that which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet;

Ok – true confessions time. I'm a bit of a word and grammar nerd. Not the worst kind. Not the kind that corrects others' grammar during conversation (well – at least others who aren't my kids). And not the kind who brings a marker to the grocery store to edit the signs in the express lane so that they say "10 items or fewer" instead of "10 items or less". And as readers are already aware (and more than a few are likely infuriated by) I don't worry too much about traditional notions of style, many of which are derived from rules that were relevant when we all wrote in latin (e.g., the prohibition against split infinitives).

No – I'm more like the kind of nerd who, after the server at the restaurant says "my name is John if you need anything" immediately thinks to himself – what is his name if I don't need anything?" I'm a guy who regularly weeps (figuratively, not literally) at the abuse inflicted by our society on the poor apostrophe. And I'm a fellow who carries around with him in memory sentences and phrases I've loved from things I've read (e.g., The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't. – D. Adams, and Ah! How cheerfully we consign ourselves to perdition! H. Melville). I've even been carrying around the first line to my first novel (not yet finished) for the better part of three decades (He was thinking of Iowa. B. DeFoe). [Note: I'm not at all certain the novel will get finished or that the line will make it to the final version – but I like it.]

So, yeah. I'm a guy who likes language. And I suspect that is why I have a tendency to name things. Every car I've ever owned has had a name. I name my shoes (honestly, not every pair – but many pairs – I've got a great pair of sandals named Lawrence). And my pets have all had not only names but also extensive back stories filled with drama and intrigue (Mrs. HoochLaw and I once had a Labrador mix who claimed to have traveled with the Lewis & Clark expedition. This is patently absurd but we didn't argue with the dog for fear that we would hurt her feelings and dampen her spirit).

All of this brings me to the recent necessity of naming the newest addition to the HoochLaw office – an oak sapling sprouted from an acorn in a pot on my desk. I solicited the views of the Internet (an always dodgy endeavor) on names and received quite a few. To be honest, some of the suggestions were dreadful. Members of my firm's own marketing team suggested – and I'm not making this up – "hOAKey Pokey." Seriously.

Others offered some foreshadowing of the potential for said sapling; I received many variations on "barrel" and one suggestion of "char". All of which are great – except that the little guy would need to be dead in order to achieve that potential.

No – what I was looking for is.... basically the same thing you should be looking for when naming your business or spirits brand. My colleagues who practice trademark law are constantly drilling into my head the benefit of coming up with a name that isn't simply descriptive of your business or products. Instead, you should shoot for something that is – if possible – pretty arbitrary (Apple) or, failing that, evocative (Amazon).

I don't anticipate trademarking the name of our sapling. But I simply couldn't stand the thought of giving it a name that is purely descriptive. And while "barrel" and "char" probably count as evocative – the thought of the poor little guy in a sawmill didn't appeal to me much.

Nope, I wanted to give the fellow a name that was somewhere between evocative and arbitrary. I got a few suggestions that fit the bill, and I've picked one I like: "Mo."

Yep, the little guy is now officially Mo – and if you want it to be evocative you can know that the suggestion came with a note that it could be short for Mighty Oak. This appeals to me in much the same way that I found it appealing to give my last child a name that would signify his being the final installment in a series (his initials are "ZED"). Yep – Mo will work just fine.

The winning suggestion was sent to me by the good folks developing The Bard Distillery. In thanks for their suggestion, I'll be sending them some HoochLaw swag.

Originally published in Hooch Law, May 2018

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