When you’re launching a business, or bringing out a new product, one of the most important choices you have to make is what to call it. If, for example, Dodge had named its line of heavy-duty pickup trucks “Daffodil” instead of “Ram”, sales would surely have suffered. A cheesy snack called “Ratbait” will struggle for market share. It’s worth spending some time, and even some money, to get the name right.

So I’m always surprised to see commercial ventures with conspicuously ill-chosen names. There’s an outstanding example right in my Brooklyn neighborhood: a hair salon called — I am not making this up — Medusa. That’s right, this beauty parlor is actually named for a Gorgon so unspeakably hideous that the very sight of her was enough to turn a man to stone.

Today I saw an ad for a hair product whose name is a word meaning “a boil, or a sebaceous cyst of the scalp”.



  1. the one eyed man says

    Out here you can get your pet groomed at Doggy Styles or have dinner at Thai Stick.

    There is also a chain of Vietnamese restaurants called Pho Queen. I’m guessing that it’s because you couldn’t have a great Pho King restaurant.

    Posted September 21, 2011 at 8:14 pm | Permalink
  2. Somewhere (in Britain I think) there is a “Phat Phuc Noodle Bar“, which, for some reason, seems to be advocating a low-carb diet.

    Posted September 21, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    Over on Atlantic Avenue here in Brooklyn there was for years a ratty Chinese joint with a big sign that said:


    It was there for about twenty years, and nobody ever added the ‘K’.

    Posted September 21, 2011 at 10:22 pm | Permalink
  4. Did you mean the “C”?

    Posted September 21, 2011 at 10:54 pm | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says

    Oops. Yeah, I meant the ‘C’.

    Posted September 21, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Permalink
  6. Severn says

    I saw a Chinese realtor called “Ho Ho Ho Real Estate”.

    Posted September 21, 2011 at 11:53 pm | Permalink
  7. David says

    The overall point is spot-on. Names of products, stores, pretty much everything matter. However, your particular example of the hair salon assumes some level of knowledge of the Greek myth that I suspect doesn’t exist. The truth behind a name matters less than the conceptions people hold about the particular name. In this case maybe people think wild and funky hair when they think about Medusa rather than ugly.

    Overall, I’m clearly over thinking this but I meant only to point out how its people conceptions about a name rather than the reality behind the name that dictate its success.

    Posted September 22, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Permalink
  8. Wasn’t Medusa supposed to be beautiful . . . except for the snakes, of course.

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

    Posted September 22, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Permalink
  9. Malcolm says

    Jeffery, I always thought she was ugly all round, but apparently accounts vary. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

    While ancient Greek vase-painters and relief carvers imagined Medusa and her sisters as beings born of monstrous form, sculptors and vase-painters of the fifth century began to envisage her as being beautiful as well as terrifying. In an ode written in 490 BC Pindar already speaks of “fair-cheeked Medusa”.[5]

    In a late version of the Medusa myth, related by the Roman poet Ovid (Metamorphoses 4.770), Medusa was originally a ravishingly beautiful maiden, “the jealous aspiration of many suitors,” priestess in Athena’s temple, but when the “Lord of the Sea” Poseidon raped her in Athena’s temple, the enraged Athena, choosing not to punish Poseidon, transformed Medusa’s beautiful hair to serpents and made her face so terrible to behold that the mere sight of it would turn onlookers to stone.

    Maybe “fair-cheeked” doesn’t refer to her face…

    Posted September 22, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

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