What’s in a Name

Call me old-fashioned. I think the name of a company ought to tell you something about it: either who runs it, what they care about, where it is, or what it does. Retailers know this. So do lawyers. When companies choose made-up words or deliberately misspell real ones, I often conclude either a) they’re doing a poor job of trying to show how clever they are, or b) no one ever put it on a big poster board and asked strangers to read it aloud.

Tech companies are especially prone to contriving names. A list on the American Express Open Forum site of how 16 well-known companies got their names includes a few that work. You can guess at what they’re supposed to mean, plus there’s a good story about their origins. And who doesn’t like a good story?

Here’s mine:

When it was time to name my company, Cochituate Media wasn’t my first choice. The internet domain for the name I wanted was already taken.  I brainstormed a bit, and put the decision off until I had my first client.

I knew I wanted a name that evoked some physical object or space, to counterbalance the fact that my work is almost completely virtual. Cochituate (pronounced “coh-CHI-choo-it” ) was, and is, a place. An Algonquin word, it means “torrent,” “place of rushing water,” or “rapid stream”–the outfall, according to Natick, Mass. business owner and activist A. Richard Miller, of a lake located within a colonial-era Indian village that is now part of nearby Wayland. The name Cochituate endures, as the name of the suburban village, and of the lake, a state park on that lake, a brook and a major roadway that I use nearly every day.

There’s more local history, too. In the mid-19th century, the lake became part of a set of reservoirs and an aqueduct system that brought fresh water to Boston for more than 100 years. (If you’re interested in the history, check out Miller’s brief history of Cochituate, and this short piece about the Cochituate Aqueduct)

The lake shore is a short walk from where I live. When my kids were younger, we used to stand in the water and practice skipping rocks. The backyards and woods surrounding the lake present a lovely fall foliage show.  Once in a while, we’ll put in a canoe and paddle around.

It’s a name that connects my work with my life.

4 thoughts on “What’s in a Name

  1. Nice, Elana! I love local names and their stories. And for a company, so much better than the made-up syllables used for names like Altria or Accenture. Good luck!

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