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lialogoCatchword’s own Laurel Sutton has been tapped to serve on the first-ever Verbal Identity jury for the prestigious London International Awards (LIA) to begin next week in Las Vegas. She will be the first full-time professional namer at LIA.

LIA invites “the most talented, recognized, and awarded individuals from within their respective fields” to serve on its juries. With her background in linguistics, branding, and naming, Laurel will be a significant addition to the Verbal Identity jury, which includes branding experts from Verbal Identity Ltd. (London), Panic (London), CBX (New York), Eat Creative (Tokyo), and the Wall Street Journal.

“Laurel is one of the foremost namers on the planet, with more than two decades’ experience as a naming-firm principal, name strategist, and linguist,” said Catchword co-founder and Executive Creative Director Maria Cypher. “We are thrilled that she will share her wealth of verbal branding insights on this debut panel.”

LIA (formerly known as London International Advertising Awards), now in its 31st year,  is a worldwide award honoring excellence in Advertising, Digital, Production, Design, Music & Sound, and Technology. This year marks the first time Verbal Identity will be treated as a medium, with its own jury. In addition to Naming, categories include Campaign Tagline/Endline, Tone of Voice, and Use of Copywriting.

“LIA’s promotion of Verbal Identity to a medium is a ground-breaking move for the branding business,” Laurel explained. “Verbal Identity — especially naming — is an often-overlooked part of branding. Namers don’t even have a professional association, like the AIGA for design. There is an academic organization, the American Name Society, of which I’m a member, but nothing for people in the industry.”

LIA juries consist of 6-11 members who judge entries from around world in the 16 media. Last year, 14,106 entries from 78 countries vied for the gold, silver, and bronze statues. This year’s judging takes place October 6-14 at the Encore Hotel in Las Vegas.

Laurel Sutton Strategy Consultant Catchword“I was honored to be selected as a juror,” Laurel said, “and I’m delighted to be collaborating again with Ben Zimmer, a linguist and Wall Street Journal columnist. He and I have been working with the Linguistic Society of America to educate linguistic students about jobs outside of academia. I’m really looking forward to meeting the other jurors and getting down to work.”

Laurel will also participate in a panel discussion titled “Only Words: Is language there to fill the gaps between the pictures or a branding superhero power?” which will be attended by top young creatives as well as the press.

The LIA shortlists will be announced as each session concludes (mid-October) and winners November 2.

Congratulations, Laurel! We can’t wait to hear all about it!

Stay tuned for Laurel’s behind-the-scenes report from LIA October 11.

[To Our Naming Competitors: Note that jury members do not participate in the judging of their own company’s work, so Catchword’s four Naming entries will not receive any unfair advantage from Laurel’s participation — they will rise to the top on their own merit.]


Laurel Sutton is a linguist, strategist, and co-founder of Catchword. Her love of language began with a BA in Linguistics at Rutgers University and continued in graduate school at UC Berkeley, where she specialized in both sociolinguistics and phonetics. She enjoys the challenge of working out strategy and architecture issues with clients such as Cisco, Plantronics, Corning, and Keysight.

Despite being born and raised in New Jersey, Laurel speaks excellent English, and has studied French, German, Japanese, and ASL. She is an active member of the American Name Society and the Linguistic Society of America, and has served as an expert witness on naming and branding issues.

Catchword’s own Laurel Sutton has been tapped to serve on the first-ever Verbal Identity jury for the prestigious London International Awards (LIA) to begin next week in Las Vegas. She will be the first professional namer at LIA.

TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2016 startup names

TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2016 Startup Battlefield company naming

TechCrunch Disrupt SF’s annual Startup Battlefield was last week, where 30 startups competed for 50 thousand bones.

Here at Catchword, we like to keep up with the shiniest tech innovation trends. But we pay even more attention to the new company names! (occupational hazard)

When I read about disruptive and innovative companies and services, I ask myself a few questions about the company’s name: Are the names forward thinking, with the stamina to stay fresh for a hundred years? Or do they seem like they are following the naming trends of yore? Do the names reflect the ingenuity of the company, lending priceless cachet? Or are the names derivative, holding back a company trying so hard to exude innovation?

Let’s see how names of the six finalists hold up!

EverlyWell offers quick and easy mail-order blood tests that can be shipped off and run through established labs. The name totally has the right tonality, and even though the ly ending is overused in startup naming, it is totally friendly and at least feels a little fresh coming in the middle of the name. But I’m not exactly sure what ever has to do with the core benefit of the service — the ease and comfort of being able to do a blood test from home on your own time. I think this name will work, but I suspect there was a better way to hint at what the service actually does. Grade: B

Carbon Health aims to provide a unified place for patients to track health data and interact with doctors, and for doctors, pharmacies, and labs to communicate with patients. Carbon Health could be a nice, clean, premium-sounding name in many regards — carbon makes diamonds, after all, and is what organic matter must contain to be organic. However, the associations with climate change are simply too strong in my mind for this name to work. Carbon dioxide, carbon footprint, carbon sequestration, carbon taxes… Climate change has become a big negative in public health as a result of extreme temperatures, drought, poor air quality, quicker spread of disease, and so forth, I’d stay away from carbon if I were these folks. Grade: D

techcrunchstartup-battlefield1600Mobalytics was the WINNER of the TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2016 startup competition. It offers coaching for video-game players by analyzing their play and telling them what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how to improve. Great concept! I don’t play WoW, but I do play enough games to know that this would be super intriguing and very helpful, if I wanted to improve. However, the name very clearly suggests mobile to me. Mobile gaming may be part of their line-up in the future, but they are starting with World of Warcraft and then after that moving on to DoTA and Counterstrike, all of which require good old-fashioned computers. The lytics bit is good (and is a great example at how you can hint at what you do without being boring), but I honestly don’t know what Moba is supposed to suggest. The name has great flow, however, which is why I am giving this a B- instead of a C+. Grade: B-

BlazingDB is a new take on database management that uses graphics processing units (rather than computer processing units) to analyze massive amounts of data. Blazing is meant to communicate that using GPUs rather than CPUs is fast. Which it is. Though heat and fire metaphors are very common and perhaps overused to suggest speed, that’s not the part of the name I have reservations about. I have reservations about the other denotation of DB. Maybe nobody in the industry will read it that way because they are used to the acronym, but it isn’t beyond the pale. Grade: B-

Sqreen is a security service that monitors web-based apps for threats using a software-as-a-service approach. The name is simple, clean, and quirky, with a good double meaning. To a large extent, the trend of misspelling words came out of a need for cheap, available screen names and domains, and though misspelling are going slightly out of style (not to mention, the new gTLDs have somewhat reset the domain acquisition game), I think there is still a place for unexpected yet elegant misspellings like SqreenGrade: A

UnifyID thinks they’ve found a way to get rid of passwords once and for all. Their service tracks your behavior —  your typing cadence, locations, patterns of use, and more — to make sure it’s really you. If you are acting erratically, or they suspect a hacker has taken the reins, they’ll ask to validate your identity. But if it’s clear that it’s you, no passwords needed! At all! I would have really liked to get my hands on this name. To me, the ID abbreviation (short for “identification”) actually suggests passwords. That’s backward! Unify kinda sorta gets at what they do, which is build a comprehensive profile of users, and they do want to imply that this service can span platforms (you can use it for Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail, for example). But I don’t think unity of platforms is the most gripping or exciting component for the user. In my opinion, the really cool creative possibilities here lie in messages about identity rather than identification. The concept of a soul, spirit, persona, or true self — this is fertile naming ground. Grade: B-

Startup naming is difficult. It’s often the last thing entrepreneurs want to focus on. But taking the time to make sure your name is the best it can be is really important! It affects how fast a new company spreads or catches on, it affects how effective your marketing can be, and it greatly shapes the user’s personal relationship with the product or company. If you have any questions about naming your new company or product, give us a shout!

TechCrunch Disrupt SF’s annual Startup Battlefield was last week, where 30 startups competed for 50 thousand bones. … Let’s see how the names of the six finalists hold up!


hispanicmonthflagsToday is the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, during which we celebrate the histories, cultures, and contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans. The first step in recognizing someone’s achievements is to know what to call him or her, and using someone’s name according to their preferred custom is a critical component of respect.

Personal name order and conventions in Hispanic cultures vary from those in English, as do those in Russian, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and many other cultures. As diverse as the U.S. is, we all need to know a little something about how our fellow citizens name themselves. We don’t have time here to go into detail about the fascinating traditions around personal names in the Hispanic world, but here’s a quick overview.

Family names
Surnames (appellidos in Spanish), in most Spanish-speaking countries are a composite of the father’s first surname (the one that came from his father) and the mother’s (the one that came from her father, her maiden name). The father’s surname generally comes first. For example, if Gabriel García Marquez had a child with Frida Kahlo y Calderón (her name before marrying Diego Rivera), the child’s surname would be García Kahlo. In the past, and still in some countries, y (“and”) is used to connect the two names, as in Ms. Kahlo’s name.

For alphabetization and when shortening the name, the first surname is used. Hence, “Ms. Kahlo,” not “Ms. Calderón.” Mr. García Marquez’s novels, as well as Federico García Lorca’s poetry and plays, are shelved under G. Both men are referred to as “Mr. García.” (Note that, in the English-speaking world, Señor García Lorca is often referred to as “Lorca,” presumably because English speakers are not familiar with the Spanish naming practice and/or because Lorca is a less common name than García.)

Surname order in Portugal and Brazil is reversed (maternal surname first and paternal surname second), but when alphabetizing or shortening the name, the paternal surname is used, as in Hispanic countries.

Just married
The custom for surnames for married women has changed over time, as it has in the U.S. In some Hispanic countries, women do not change their surnames at all and both surnames are part of their legal name with equal weight. In others, the woman’s second surname (the one from her mother) is dropped and replaced with the man’s first surname, preceded by de — for example, Frida took the name “Frida Kahlo de Rivera” when she married.

The more contemporary custom is for women not to change their name upon marriage, as many women do in the U.S. However, women do still add their husband’s surname or use it in favor of their first surname because they wish to emphasize association with him. For example, former Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, widow of president Néstor Kirchner, uses Cristina Kirchner as her professional name.

What about the children?
As noted above, the norm in Hispanic countries has mostly been for children to take the first surname of each parent, with the father’s first. But what surnames children are given, and in what order, is evolving throughout the Spanish-speaking world, as it is here.

Whither surname?
The global dominance of English in business, politics, and pop culture is affecting the customs of Hispanic surnames throughout the world and certainly in the U.S. Many well-known Latinos in this country have chosen to use (or are referred to in the media by) a single surname, at least professionally, such as Sonia Sotomayor, Cesar Chavez, Jennifer Lopez, Marco Rubio, Benicio del Toro, and Sammy Sosa. Whether such public figures would have chosen to use a composite surname if they lived in an Hispanic country or if the U.S. people were more familiar with composite surnames is anyone’s guess.

Personal names are, um, personal
Both in law and in common practice, individuals — rather than traditions — are now deciding whose family name(s) they wish to continue in the next generation. Family makeup is becoming more varied, attitudes about patriarchy and the significance of one’s surname are changing, and more people are marrying later in life, after they have built a career.

So how do you know what name to use when communicating with someone personally? The most respectful course is, as with everything else, to find out the individual’s wishes by asking.

Today is the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, during which we celebrate the histories, cultures, and contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans. The first step in recognizing someone’s achievements is to know what to call him or her, and using someone’s name properly according to their preferred custom is a critical component of respect.

Catchword name review: TechStyle Fashion Group

Catchword name review: TechStyle Fashion GroupAs any teenager will tell you, coming of age and growing up often involves re-inventing yourself with new duds. Which is just what happened to JustFab. As the innovative clothing retailer created more and more trendy fashion lines and sub-brands, they realized they had grown too big for their name’s original britches.

JustFab had been readily conferring the Fab prefix (cutely short for both fabulous and fabric) like a trusty sibling hand-me-down to sub-brands FabKids and Fabletics, and had created ShoeDazzle and other lines along the way as well. But since they showed no signs their growth spurt was over, they decided they needed was a new name that suggested the breadth of brands they carried and hinted at their secret to success: their membership-driven and tech-centered method of delivering the latest fashion and style to consumers.

In my house, when we outgrow our britches, we make them into cut-offs. JustFab could have made jorts and gone with simply Fab – staying true to their jeans in some form. Or, they could have ditched the jeans for slacks and made a corporate, down-to-business descriptive name for the umbrella company to let their portfolio of sub-brands shine.

InCatchword name review: TechStyle Fashion Groupstead, they went with TechStyle Fashion Group. Is this ambitious name clean and pressed, or might it have been a little accident in their identity pants?

There’s a lot to unravel here. TechStyle is a subtle but exact homonym for textile, and realizing that more or less knocked my socks off. It brings to mind what musical theater/lyrical genius Stephen Sondheim notes in his book Finishing the Hat: rhymes that don’t share the same letter patterns at the end feel much more exciting to the listener (or even reader) than rhymes that share suffixes or endings. So, fool and cruel are much more exciting than fool and cool or tool. You can see it here – the fact that TechStyle is a perfect homonym but looks so different is just fabulous. It is the biggest asset to the name.

But, TechStyle is really dominated by Tech and hardly balanced by Style or even textile once you see it. Which is why, of course, they added Fashion Group to the name. Fashion Group, I would say, is like a sturdy pair of suspenders that allow TechStyle to function. It’s a long name and the wedding of tech and fashion in the name feels blunt, like jamming two incongruous puzzle pieces together, but all together it gets their point across and captures a balance between tech and fashion. (It should be noted, however, that puns of that sophistication would not hold up in international markets, if they had plans to use that as the face of their brand in a non-English speaking area.)

It’s quite a clever name, but not necessarily intuitive, so I net out thinking that though TechStyle Fashion Group wouldn’t be elegant enough for a consumer-facing fashion brand, as a umbrella company, it isn’t horrible.  We shall see if the name ends up in the thrift store in a few months.

JustFab has a new name, TechStyle Fashion Group. Fashion-forward pun or forced faux pas?

Catchword and Just The Word principal Maria Cypher

MariaWe are very proud to report that our very own Maria Cypher, founding partner of Catchword and Just The Word, has been profiled by NamesCon as part of their Women in Domaining series. Learn more about our fearless leader and what makes her tick, from most surprising fact to greatest influence. Women in Domaining Profile: Maria Cypher 

NamesCon, held each January in Las Vegas, is the world’s largest domain name industry conference.

Catchword’s domain sales division, Just The Word, offers brandable names great for companies or products — currently more than 1500, categorized by industry.

We are very proud to report that our very own Maria Cypher, founding partner of Catchword and Just The Word, has been profiled by NamesCon as part of their Women in Domaining series. Read it here.