What’s in a name?

At the start of the year, I was engaged in creating a series of books under the umbrella name of ‘The Ladies Guide’ and advertising the books on my website called jenny dempsey design. Neither name described what the books were actually about. When anyone asked me what I did, I struggled to describe the concept.

In the interest of making the elevator pitch shorter I set up a separate company called The Time Travelling Guides for Curious Women. Ok, it was a bit of a mouthful, but it was more descriptive of the business. I was fairly happy.

We have Mr Shakespeare to thank for the idea that the calling an object (such as a rose) one word or another, does not affect its intrinsic nature. And while he has a point, I wonder if the purpose of a name is actually to influence how that item is perceived?

Take place names in Ireland. Every river, every mountain every flowering boreen has its own name. But, unless one understands Irish, our place names don’t mean anything.

Our ancestors lived in places with wonderul names such as Mouth of the flower, or ‘An Action and a Half’. They fished in rivers named after gods and goddesses. They were sheltered from the winds by the Hill of the Plovers and found turf in The Soft Place of Holes . The country was described in terms of how it provided for its people. It must have felt grounded. There must have been a sense of connectedness with the land.

In 1825 a geographical study of the country began. The government wanted to improve the taxation system but needed to map the country first. Information on each townland was collected and written into a ‘Name Book’. This Name Book listed the Irish name and often included what the Irish words meant. However, many a sasanach has struggled with the lack of relationship between sound and spelling in the Irish language, and a decision was made to use a phonetically ‘anglicised‘ version of all place name on the subsequent Ordnance Survey maps.

Perhaps this did not affect those early nineteenth century people so much. They were still speaking the native language. They could understand what a place name meant – whether it was spelled in English or in Irish. But these days, as we dash from Ballygibberish to Kilmorgobbedly-gook it can be hard to feel we are living in a land named with soft poetry.

We no longer understand the reason. We no longer hear its rhyme.

Getting back to my new name, I wondered how it was being perceived. I asked a few people and heard that while most liked the word curious, many questioned the phrase time-travel – they said the name conjured images of science fiction, HG Wells and loud clunky machinery which is not on brand.

The most interesting observation was from the woman designing my new website. She pointed out, that it is too damn long for people to bother typing into their search engine. This made me realise that having such a long name made for tiny words on screen.

A logo has to be seen to be perceived, and this one could barely be seen

It wasn’t working.

So now, I have new, new name. A name which describes what the business is about. A name that uses a small amount of words. I thought of the name before the summer, and have spent the past months wrestling with creating a fitting design. I wanted something to suggest that history is current. Something light-hearted but not shallow. I also wanted to create a purely typographic logo as a symbol would take up valueable space and reduce the size of the name on screen.

This new, new name should trip off the fingers of anyone who wishes to type it into Google.

It’s all roses smelling so sweet around Pretty Interesting History HQ these days.

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