What’s in a name? What does it mean to us? To others? Does the meaning change if we translate it into another language? What if we put the accent on an alternate syl-LAHH-ble? Or, if when reading it, we group the letters together differently than the author intended them to be grouped?

Translation. People are probably more aware of this issue in the age of globalization, but a reminder never hurts. We’ve all heard the infamous debacle that was the Chevy Nova’s introduction to South America. In a supposed case of not doing the homework on translations, the Nova (bright star in English) is No-va, or no go in Spanish. Not a great product name for a machine that was created to go from point A to point B. Even if the tale is an urban legend, it’s still a good lesson.

Syl-lahh-bles. Remember the commercial for A&W Root Beer, where the eager candidate talks about all he can bring to Dum-ass and Dum-ass. After he pauses to wait for a “you’re hired!” he learns that the name is actually pronounced Due-maas.

Look at it from every angle. It’s easy to take something that is very visual or graphic like an image, a painting, a photograph or a sculpture and turn it (or yourself) upside down, sideways, diagonally, backwards or inside out, to observe it from another vantage point. Chances are you’ll see something markedly different. Sometimes we don’t do that with words, but we probably should.

You may have seen this in an e-mail, but it serves as a good reminder that when creating anything with letters or words (in this case a URL), take some time to read it every which way you can. Read forwards and backwards, and group the letters in various ways. You might be surprised at what you find!

All of these are legitimate companies that didn’t spend quite enough time considering how their online names might appear … and be misread.

1. Who Represents is where you can find the name of the agent that represents any celebrity.

2. Experts Exchange is a knowledge base where programmers can exchange advice and views at

4. And don’t forget the Mole Station Native Nursery in New South Wales,

5. If you’re looking for IP computer software, there’s always

6. And the designers at Speed of Art await you at their wacky Web site

7. This one is just unfortunate Boring Business Solutions

As for me, I am just glad I was born before the obscure baby name trend. Had my parents chosen any of these first names, I would have endured a painful childhood.

1. Bo
2. Blathe
3. Blunde
4. Clatte
5. Cowe
6. Er
7. Shoest
8. Thunde
9. Sno

Or, in the situations where your last name is called out first (every class room roll call…)
1. Worm
2. Tone
3. Ling
4. Ding
5. Rot
6. Side
7. Master
8. Spot

Know any bad names, or word accidents? Tell us!