Is The Urban Dictionary A Bible For Branding?
The Urban Dictionary is a web-based dictionary of slang words and phrases. Anyone can submit to the Urban Dictionary, but submissions are reviewed by volunteer editors and are rated by site visitors. Some people in the naming business think the Urban Dictionary is the new “Bible for Branding.” I politely disagree.
Last year a new vodka launched, and there was considerable controversy over its name, RangTang (http://adage.com/adages/post?article_id=142601). Apparently in the Urban Dictionary, rangtang has a slang meaning that is sexual in nature.
When the Sci Fi Channel changed its name to SyFy, some Urban Dictionary fans noted that syfy is slang for syphilis.
I just want to point out that the Urban Dictionary notes that “apple” is “A pejorative term used by Native Americans towards other Native Americans accused of "acting white"” as in “red on the outside, white on the inside.” Does this mean that Steve Jobs will be changing the name of the iconic Apple brand? I doubt it. Depending upon the Urban Dictionary citation you want to believe, Yahoo is a successful website, an expression of joy or an ignorant rural person.
Like most things in life, there is not one simple answer. Do I consult the Urban Dictionary from time to time? Yes. Would it prevent me from recommending a name to a client? It hasn’t yet. In the few instances where a name had slang associated with it, I chose to ignore it. After all, anyone can submit to the Urban Dictionary. And furthermore, some companies appreciate the free PR (some comments in the Ad Age article note this).
Shakespeare’s Hamlet said, “…there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Shakespeare would not have been a big fan of the Urban Dictionary! I don’t consider it the new “Bible of Branding.”