What’s In a Name?

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From Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, 1600:

JULIET:

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy; Thou art thyself, though not a Montague. What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot, Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part Belonging to a man. O, be some other name! What’s in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet; So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d, Retain that dear perfection which he owes Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name, And for that name which is no part of thee Take all myself.

The meaning here, of course, is that it does not matter what we call someone or something. What that someone or something is, is what matters. That is unless you are naming a product, then you want to name to mean something, to have a ring about it, some memorability. There are whole marketing and product development departments devoted to naming products.

One such product that is known the world over is Coca-Cola. The history of the famous soda is fairly well known—Coca-Cola was created by Dr. John S. Pemberton, a chemist and pharmacist in Atlanta, Georgia. Pemberton was experimenting with two main ingredients—coca leaves and kola nuts—trying to produce a medicinal elixir. The concoction he actually created was a refreshing soft drink that would quench the thirst of generations. The drink was first introduced at the Jacobs Pharmacy in May 1886 at Atlanta. It was not an instant hit. The first year, only 25 gallons of the mix was sold.

The drink, however, was not named by Pemberton. Pemberton’s business venture was named the Pemberton Chemical Company and had four men in the partnership—Frank Mason Robinson, David Doe, Ed Holland, and Pemberton himself.

It was Robinson, the bookkeeper of the partnership that named the product Coca-Cola. He chose the name because it combined the two main ingredients and was “euphonious.” Not only did the entrepreneurial clerk come up with the name, but also the script used in what is perhaps the most famous logo in the world. The script he used, called Spencerian script, was popular with bookkeepers of his day.
Robinson stayed with the company even after Pemberton sold out his share to Asa Chandler. Mason became the chief marketer for the soft drink and made it a household name. He became known as one of the marketing experts of his day. Though, Frank Mason Robinson became famous and wealthy, he is buried in the Westview Cemetery at Atlanta underneath a grass marker that only has carved on it his name, birth, and death years. There is a modest family marker adorned with roses but no indication of his long and important association with and contribution to Coca-Cola, the name he created for a drink known in every corner of the world. To paraphrase Shakespeare, Coca-Cola: By any other name would it “taste” as sweet! Methinks not.

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