The Elmer Fudd Rule

Are you thinking of distinguishing your firm by trademarking a new word?

It’s a tempting path – or should I say “iPath”?  But for every neologism that breaks through to become part of the collective consciousness, there are thousands of clunky, derivative attempts that fall far short of the mark.  If yours falls into the latter category, you’ll distinguish your firm alright, but for all the wrong reasons.

But if no one can talk you or your marketing folks out of the idea, then please for the love of language, follow one simple rule.  I call it the Elmer Fudd Rule.

You remember Elmer, he of the bald pate and the oversized hunting cap; he of the inability to pronounce the letter R – which was impossible to avoid, as his favorite quarry was the “wascally wabbit” Bugs Bunny.  While out hunting, Elmer would often turn to the camera and advise the viewers to “be vewwy, vewwy quiet.”

I know, I know – when you’re creating a new word you don’t want to be quiet about it.  You want to make as much noise as possible, to trumpet your firm’s creativity far and wide.  But if you can’t be quiet about it, to paraphrase Elmer, “be vewwy vewwy caweful” – um, careful.

Elmer’s adventures in hunting always ended up making him look like a fool. He knew how to dress like a hunter and arm himself like a hunter but (fortunately for Bugs Bunny) he didn’t know the first thing about being a hunter. Likewise, we all use words daily, but that doesn’t mean we’re qualified to make new ones.

Two of my pet peeves:

  • Shackling together two (or more!) words – the result is often clunky and not euphonious.
  • Slapping an “e” or an “i” on the beginning of a word – unless your company’s name is Apple, you have no claim to the “i” prefix.  And at this point, “e” is so last century

Elmer Fudd succeeded only in making his audience laugh. Unless that’s your goal, don’t try to create new words. Instead, concentrate on making the most of the ones we already have.

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