November 22, 2004
Naming "Conglomerate"
Posted by Gordon Smith

When Christine and I decided to join forces on this blog, one of our first tasks was selecting a name. We both agreed that "Venturpreneur" was clunky and too hard to spell. Perhaps as a reaction to Venturpreneur, we immediately gravitated toward real words. "Corporate Conspiracy" was my initial favorite, but it seemed too much like a takeoff on The Volokh Conspiracy ... which it was.

The next proposal that caught my eye was "Punctilio." If you know corporate law, you recognize this as the key word in Cardozo's famous articulation of fiduciary duty in Meinhard v. Salmon:

Many forms of conduct permissible in a workaday world for those acting at arm's length are forbidden to those bound by fiduciary ties. A trustee is held to something stricter than the morals of the market place. Not honesty alone, but the punctilio of an honor the most sensitive, is then the standard of behavior...Only thus has the level of conduct for fiduciaries been kept at a level higher than that trodden by the crowd."

I love that passage, but the word "punctilio" is pretty obscure, and the allusion to Cardozo is even more obscure. Plus the word is easily misspellable as "punctillio."

How about "Peppercorn"? Another reference to law, but this time contract law. Remember the peppercorn theory of consideration? This was the idea that gifts could be turned into bargains by adding a peppercorn to the transaction. This is, of course, the height of formalism, and that is probably not a good launching pad for a blog. Plus a lot of other businesses call themselves "Peppercorn," so the risk of confusion was great.

Other names we considered and rejected for one reason or another include Random Walk, Noise Theory, Seamless Web, Proxy Fight, and Corporate Minutes. In the end, we preferred Conglomerate for several reasons:

1. "Conglomerate" sounds businessy, and despite the posts on movies and cheese, we are mostly about business.

2. The word "conglomerate" denotes the gathering of disparate parts into a whole. Christine and I were blogging in separate places, and now we are blogging in the same place.

3. "Conglomerate" also denotes a rough assemblage of rocks and pebbles. If Slate is smooth and professional, we are more spontaneous and accidental.

4. Finally, "to conglomerate" is a verb about bringing together things to form a whole. What better description of a blog?

So, in the wake of all of these thoughts about naming, I stumbled across an article on naming in the latest edition of Business 2.0 (subscription). In that article, Alex Frankel discusses the "New Science of Corporate Naming" with the following tag lines: "Forget made-up words and quirky nonsense. When choosing an identity for a company or a product, simple and straightforward are back in style." Amen to that!

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