Cracking the lexical code - part 1.
The English language is composed of 44 sounds, represented by the 26 characters of the alphabet. It’s a codified system that most of us crack by the age of five.
At over 2,000 years old, the alphabet was derived from Egyptian hieroglyphs. The word itself originating from the Greek alphabētos, a combination of the first two letters, alpha and beta. These in turn came from the Phoenician aleph, meaning ox, and bet, meaning house.
But the alphabet is just one part of a multi-level linguistic code. Hidden stories, meanings and associations lie behind every sound, letter and word. By understanding and harnessing these hidden meanings, we can create brand names that resonate beyond the obvious.
For example, certain strings of letters have taken on a meaning of their own, a phenomenon called sound symbolism. Take words beginning with Str, they often denote something long and thin, like streets, streams, strings and stripes, making it a decent starting point for the running app Strava® .
Gl is suggestive of light - glow, glisten, gleam, glitter, glimmer - well done Glamour Magazine®.
And sorry Greggs®, we love your savoury snacks but the MacGregor clan haven't done you any favours with their grim, grimy, grubby, and dare we say, greasy name.
Cr is crumbly, crumpled, crinkly, cracked and a bit crap, making it an odd name for Crayola®, until you understand the name has its origins in the French word for chalk.
Similarly, the 44 sounds used in English are split into eight phonetic groups, each with their own qualities and characteristics.
Fricatives, like /f/, /s/, and /z/ involve blowing air through the teeth, and are suggestive of speed and movement. Speedo® and Zipcar® got it right.
Short vowel sounds are associated with small objects or organisations, like Fitbit®. Large organisations are more often associated with long vowel sounds, like Google®.
Unvoiced plosives like /p/ and /t/, requiring intricate tongue and lip movements, indicate precision. Appropriate associations for brands like Pentax® and Tipp-ex®.
We can think of brand names as encrypted messages. There is a huge amount of information bubbling below every character, syllable and word. Data that is subconsciously interpreted by your audience, creating its own unique story. Only by understanding the underlying code can you ensure the audience hears the story you want to tell.
We delve deeper into these encrypted messages in Cracking the lexical code - part 2
If your interest has been piqued and you'd like to hire us
to run a workshop, or find out more about our NameDek
system, that exposes these hidden stories, please get in touch