August 16, 2008
Conglomerate: What's in a Name?
Posted by Christine Hurt

Apparently, it escaped our attention last December that two bloggers out there were having a go at our name and taking it a bit in vain, so it seems.  The first blogger, Mr. Verb, seems to be a linguist and was taken aback by Gordon's suggestion that university presidents be paid salaries determined by a free market.  Mr. Verb then decided to back up his argument that free markets have no place in the university's mission of disseminating information with an attack on our blog's name!  (Is that an ad nominem attack?)

For me, conglomerate has a very negative ring to it. It calls to mind the buying of companies to drive up stock prices, where people got rich off manipulating markets, not by producing goods or delivering services.

Mr. Verb then backs up his perception of the connotation of the word "conglomerate" with a Wikipedia entry. (I'm no linguist, so I'm trying to use big words like "connotation" quite carefully.) Now, I would tend to disagree that conglomerates are bad and point out that some conglomerates do quite well by letting star divisions subsidize "rising star" divisions or seasonal divisions. In fact, conglomerates are quite communitarian, which is why they sometimes aren't very efficient. I would think that someone who didn't quite care for free markets might like the conglomerate model. But I digress. . . . What's more, Mr. Verb links to his blogfriend Nancy Friedman, who likes to think about why linguisitics blogs choose the names that they do. This must have led Nancy, on her blog, Fritinancy, to start slamming our name as well. Fritinancy hates "conglomerate" as a name as well. She thinks the "glom" sound isn't very sonorous and puts people off. She thinks that the term "conglomerate," even though it could describe either a conglomerate corporation or a conglomerate rock, doesn't tell her how we will make her a smarter person. She thinks it is a weakness that our name doesn't tell her more about what we will be doing. As an aside, Fritinancy points out that lawyers are uncreative in naming law firms -- always with the names of their attorneys, for goodness sakes. Unfortunately, most state bar rules require this, Fritinancy. Our creativity has been regulated away to protect consumers of legal services from the very branding which you seek in a law firm.

Stepping back, let's remember the names of the two blogs that are criticizing us: Mr. Verb and Fritinancy.  Gordon wonders if Mr. Verb could team up with Mr. Morton, Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla, and Lolly Lolly Lolly at Conjunction Junction and make a complete sentence.  Gordon and I were split on Fritinancy.  He thought it meant Fried Nancy, but I thought it meant Fritter Nancy, as in "I just frittered away some time at Fritinancy blog."  Gordon looked at her blog and it means the chirping of a cricket, or a metaphor for a nonresponse.  Great name for a blog -- sort of like blah, blah, blah I guess.

But, let's look at the popular law blogs and their names according to the expert linguistic criteria we've been given. I could go on and on, but I'll pick two blog names that I don't think pass the test: Volokh Conspiracy -- uh, oh. "Conspiracy" is a very, very negative word. Some conspiracies are even criminal. There's no such thing as a criminal conglomerate at least. Conspiracies work to further a crime, or a cover-up, or a disinformation agenda. Wow. I bet that's a very struggling blog. And, it's named after a founder. Very uncreative. Prawfsblawg -- ugh. If any syllable is worse than "glom," it's probably "awf" or "awg."  Sorry, just spreading the word.

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