Verizon will meld AOL with Yahoo and rebrand the operation as Oath, AOL chief Tim Armstrong announced yesterday. This comes around April 1, so it could be the back end of a dumb April Fool's Day joke. If it's not, I would immediately claim that it is a joke, because it's a good way to backtrack on a terrible idea.
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Like Tronc, Oath is not a pleasant word. It sounds like a creepy, cultish organization. In Oath, there's definitely a secret handshake and a weird hat. In fact, Armstrong's tweet encourages people to #TaketheOath.
Perhaps the name is an anagram. What could it be? Well, since it involves AOL and Yahoo, it could easily be "Our Access To Hell." That's works for me.
Most modern high-tech naming conventions are designed around the idea of mental association. This thinking began in earnest with the appearance of the Pentium chip. It was not a real word and was designed to elicit a subconscious response. The next chip from Intel in 1993 should have been the 80586, but the company decided to spend a fortune for some consultants to come up with a new brand. Pentium was the winner.
Pentium had at least two elements of mental association. First the "pent" was short for penta, which means five—for the 586. It also implied pentagon and pentagram—creepy occult stuff. The "-ium" combined with the hard P of Pentium suggested platinum—a good thing. AMD followed with Athlon, incorporating athletic and longevity perhaps. Then came Intel's retort of Celeron, which just made me think of celery and lawn clippings. These ideas at Intel faded, and now it sticks with simple associations like Atom and Core.
Oath likely started in a board meeting with the idea to call the new combined company "Both." I imagine the meeting going something like this:
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Board Member A: We've called a special meeting to discuss the renaming of the new Yahoo plus AOL corporate entity.
Board Member B: Why are we changing the names? They are established brands. Everyone knows them. They are familiar.
Board Member C: You are new here. This is what we do because we do not care about such old-fashioned thinking. You'll learn.
Board Member B: It just seems dumb.
Board Member A: You can shut up. Do we have any good ideas for a name?
Board Member D: Yes, "Both!" B-O-T-H – the word itself. It implies two combined companies. It's dynamite. Fabulous idea.
Board Member A: I kind of like it.
Board member E [who is hard of hearing]: What did you say? Oath?
Board member A: That's it! Even better! Oath it is!! Meeting is adjourned.
This scenario makes as much sense and any rationale for calling any company Oath. Sheesh.
For more, check out PCMag Editor-in-Chief Dan Costa's interview with AOL founder Steve Case from SXSW in the video below.