MT VOID 03/20/98 (Vol. 16, Number 38)

MT VOID 03/20/98 (Vol. 16, Number 38)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 03/20/98 -- Vol. 16, No. 38

Table of Contents

Outside events: The Science Fiction Association of Bergen County meets on the second Saturday of every month in Upper Saddle River; call 201-933-2724 for details. The New Jersey Science Fiction Society meets on the third Saturday of every month in Belleville; call 201-432-5965 for details.

MT Chair/Librarian:
       Mark Leeper   MT 3E-433  732-957-5619
HO Chair:     John Jetzt    MT 2E-530  732-957-5087
HO Librarian: Nick Sauer    HO 4F-427  732-949-7076
Distinguished Heinlein Apologist:
       Rob Mitchell  MT 2D-536  732-957-6330
Factotum:     Evelyn Leeper MT 3E-433  732-957-2070
Back issues at
All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.

URLs of the week: and Web sites for ANALOG and ASIMOVS magazines. While they don't have the full contents, they do include some of the columns, and currently have the full texts of their Nebula-nominated stories. [-ecl]

Names: I don't know if you have given it much thought, but there is a new form of real estate market that is becoming a major industry. It is a real estate market that parcels out not land but language. Just as there is a physical real estate industry governing who owns land, there is also a logical one that parcels out words. And many of the same rules apply. The physical real estate industry that deals with pieces of land we are all used to. Land is valuable because, as Mark Twain put it, they don't make it any more. Not entirely true of course, nature and people make new land all the time, but nature is slow, not to mention arbitrary and capricious as to how it makes land. But the new logical real estate deals in words. It is a lot cheaper because you are not dealing with physical matter but in combinations of letters of the alphabet and those really do not get made any more. There are only so many pronounceable words under ten characters and they are pretty much the same set we had 100 years ago.

Suppose I want to name my new company something like Quadrant. Well, I have to do a title search to see if there already is somebody who owns that name. The probability that someone owns that name is just about 100%. The odds are really good that there is a company of that name already, but even if there is not, somebody else probably still owns the name Quadrant. There are speculators who think up good names for companies and if they are not already owned by someone else they register their plan to make a company in that name. Now they have no such intention, but by reselling the name to some corporation that wants it they can make a tidy profit. I remember that when our company name was announced as "Lucent" people looked on the Web and discovered there already was a company named Lucent. The company had exactly one asset: its name. It sold the rights to that name for a really nice profit. It was owned by a word speculator, someone much like a land speculator. So some speculator someplace owns Quadrant if there is no company of that name.

In the world of globalization there are fewer and fewer safe words that can be used for a product name. Most of us have heard about how Chevrolet was embarrassed when they tried to sell the Chevy Nova in Mexico since "Nova" is so close to "no va" meaning in Spanish "it does not go." In a recent Diversity meeting this was used as an example of how Chevrolet did not have the cultural awareness to not call the car Nova. Actually aside from a few small jokes, Chevrolet had no problem with the name initially. It was when someone raised their cultural consciousness and told them to change the name that they got into the real trouble. How we feel if for American release the Beatles had changed the name of their song from "Nowhere Man" to "No Place Man" because otherwise Yanks were probably going to think it meant "Now Here Man." How would we feel? We would have felt patronized. We would have been angry that they consider us such dumb clucks. Well, that was how the Mexicans felt about Chevy changing the name of their car just for Mexico. There is such a thing as being too concerned about cultural differences.

US News & World Report 10/13/97 tells how one company used the name "Telemon." That was fine until they tried to sell the product in Thailand where "Telemon" is incest with one's mother. It is tough to come up with a technical word that is not somebody's name for a laxative.

The problem is the world is getting more global and at the same time names are getting taken and used. The time is coming when all the good names are going to be taken, just like all the good plots of land. Then the price of good words is going to go way up. There will probably be a trademark tax.

And I am just talking about words here. Even numbers are desirable and undesirable. Ask a resident of Manhattan if he minds being in the group who will no longer have area code 212.

Oh, and checking the Web I discover my example of "Quadrant" should not be taken too literally. There already is a Quadrant Communications. [-mrl]

                                   Mark Leeper
                                   MT 3E-433 732-957-5619

Quote of the Week:

     Television is democracy at its ugliest.
                                   -- Paddy Chayefsky