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Newmericans: Coining the Word “America”

By Mark Skoultchi

February 13, 2009

A friend of mine is involved in a project called Newmericans, which is:

An online community of people originally from other countries and cultures who are now living in the United States. Newmericans eases the process of adapting to the US. Through the site, members can connect with people from similar cultures and countries, meet people who are going through the same adaptation process they are going through, share their experiences and learnings about adapting to America, ask questions, and get advice about transitioning to their new country.

At first glance I was wowed and amazed by the site’s infrastructure and mission. Then my naming engine kicked in and I started dissecting the name itself. The little naming engine that could inside my brain said “Wow, that’s clever.” But another part of me wondered whether “America” as a word is coinable.

Newmericans
The aspirational nature of the name quite literally suggests new Americans, novelty, a new beginning, a fresh future. All fitting associations for this target audience. And, because it sounds similar to “numerical” the new word is familiar and rolls off the tongue nicely.

Visually the name is quite powerful too. Newmericans is striking in that it has no ascenders or descenders. Usually graphic designers would see this as a weakness because ascenders and descenders provide ample creative fodder for creating logos. But Newmericans took that weakness and tweaked it into a strength. The flow of the word is enhanced by the fixed-height stylized text.

What’s more, Newmericans did something I’ve never seen before: They dropped the de-emphasized dot-com and eliminated it as part of their brand. Thus, the brand is simple “Newmericans” while the “.com” remains in the logo to clarify. If I were giving free naming advice, I’d even suggest that they drop the “.com” from their name and logo altogether. Nonetheless, I like how they treated the “.com” by dropping onto the second line. It plays a subconscious role in suggesting “community.”

Don’t touch “America”
Inc. Magazine recently listed their Worst Company Names ever. The list included Comerica Bank. Eli Altman over at 100 Monkeys said:


“Co America? Is there another America that I don’t know about?” Altman says. “I guess this company could say that they work with America. America is never a word you should play with or add things on to. I think people have extraordinarily complex views of the word. They’re playing with a very available and present word, and they did it in a careless way.”

 

To quote Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler from SNL’s Weekend Update, “Really?!” Never mind that there are several other Americas that Altman apparently doesn’t know about. Take for example Latin America, South America, Central America, the rest of North America, and the towns named America in Mexico, Argentina, and Mexico. And let’s not forget Air America, the Spanish car named America, and the actress America Ferrera (Ugly Betty).

Then, of course, there’s the cafĂ© Americano, which is quite literally taking the nectar of the gods and watering it down. Talk about playing with or adding onto the word America in a disparaging way — watered down like America! The term was originally coined by G.I.s in World War one who couldn’t take the full taste of European espresso and started watering down the drink with hot water. What gives soldiers the right to dilute the word, but not a bank?

What’s more, we don’t even know the true origins of “America.” It’s possible that it was the Latin version of Amerigo Vespucci’s name. Also equally likely is that it comes from the Nicaraguan natives called Amerrique who Amerigo renamed himself after (his original name was Alberigo — Just think we could’ve been called The United States of Alberica!). The point is, we don’t really even know what the word origin is, so why is the word so sacrosanct? The answer is that it’s not. It’s a word — take it, play with it, tinker, by all means, create something new with it.

I’ll admit that I don’t like Comerica as a word much either. But I don’t think it’s bad because it toys with the holiest of words. As Altaman also said, Comerica is just sort of clumsy.

Which brings me back to Newmericans. Clever, aspirational, easily pronounced, and highly suggestive. A fine new coinage, if you ask me!

Name Grade: A

Grade:
A
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