Shave and a haircut, two bits.
Did you just hear the Bo Diddley rhythm in your head? Admit it, you know you did. That’s because the power of rhythm and language is so strong, it can create powerful word/sound associations that stick in your brain longer than you may want them there. (No offense, Mr. Diddley.)
Being a drummer, I’ve always been fascinated by the relationship between language and rhythm. So often we use words to conjure up visual images and we forget the impact of their sound. The advertising world, however, has long been aware of this powerful combination and has not been shy in employing it in the process of naming products.
Here are some ways in which product names are regularly enhanced with sound.
1. Onomatopoeia — Words that sound like their meaning. Examples include: “Snap! Crackle! Pop!” (Kellogg’s Rice Krispies), KABOOM bathroom cleaning products and “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz” (Alka-Seltzer). OK, maybe I’m the only one old enough to remember this last one, but you get the idea.
2. Rhyming — Rhyming words can not only make you groan, they can also serve as powerful memory-joggers. Lean Cuisine, YouTube and Crunch ‘n Munch all benefit from enhanced memorability due to their simple rhyming structure. (The latter is also a good example of onomatopoeia.)
3. Alliteration — A repetition of sounds in two or more neighboring words, i.e. Bed, Bath & Beyond, Dunkin’ Donuts and Jimmy John’s. These names all have their roots in the “Peter-Piper-picked-a-peck-of-pickled-peppers” school. Although I don’t believe this is where the term “Peter Principle” originated.
4. Neologisms — Making new words by combining two or more existing words. Snapple = snap + apple, Nyquil = night-time + quiet, Dayquil = … well, you get the picture.
5. Haplology — A three-word phrase with the middle abbreviated. Land O’Lakes, Bit ‘O Honey and Rid-X (ok, somebody here was just being lazy) are a few examples. In addition to making every day sound like St. Patrick’s Day, the word “haplology” also contains “lol” in the middle of it, which I like to think is more than just a coincidence.
These are just some of the ways in which naming exploits the sound of words for maximum impact; there are many others.
Well, I hope you enjoyed our little trip through rhythm land. Here’s hoping it gave you a bunch-o-fun, bang for your buck and made your day funny, sunny, and a little less craptacular. (Ba-DUM-boom).
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