What's in a name?

There’s a swear jar in the Transport for London press office – and it’s specifically for use of the C-word. Yep…it’s to get them in the habit of saying Elizabeth Line as opposed to Crossrail.

<Sigh> If TfL staff can’t get it right, how are we expected to? Do we even want to call it by its proper name? Personally, no. I love the ‘what-it-says-on-the-tin’ manner of Crossrail. It’s sharp, snappy, and makes total sense. 

It got me thinking about what else is out there that still hasn’t caught on. How many Londoners ever bothered citing Barclays Cycle Hire as one of the capital’s methods of transport? Seven years on (or one new London mayor, a change of sponsorship, and a whole new colour scheme later), Santander Cycles hasn’t stuck either. We still affectionately refer to them as ‘Boris Bikes‘.

I could talk for hours about standout monikers for London landmarks (Cheesegrater, Walkie Talkie, and Gherkin, anyone?). And I could go on for ages about brand names that are widely used as verbs (Hoover, Photoshop, and Superglue to name only three).

Why do some ‘nicknames’ work better than the given name? And how do some brand names become part of our everyday vocabulary? Largely because of their simplicity. These magic words find their way into our subconscious and, before we know it, we’ve formed a long-lasting bond with them. A huge marketing tick-in-the-box. In Crossrail’s case, we’ve had that ‘project name’ and logo in our faces for so long now that many of us couldn’t possibly call it anything else. And when they announce the official name for Crossrail 2, guess what we’re (most likely) going to call it? 

On the flip side, there are some products/services/brands that really could do with a rethink. Personally, I still can’t say ‘contactless payment’ out loud without feeling like a fool. In no way does it represent the snappy payment process that it is – which, ironically, involves physical contact. Surely it should be called something like ‘Push’ or ‘Ping’?