Friday, February 10, 2012

What’s In a Name – Is Big Better?

New York Giants logoImage via WikipediaThe Poughkeepsie Journal landed at my door on Saturday, February 4th – the day before the super bowl – with a front page article titled The Big Blues: How the Giants and IBM Got Their Nicknames. Of course, such a story could only be considered news in New York’s Hudson Valley, where it would be flirting with danger to admit that you prefer the Patriots to the Giants, and where if someone in your family doesn’t work for IBM, one of your neighbors surely does.

It’s interesting to note that the writer of the article could not determine how either the 2012 Super Bowl champs or the tech giant actually did get tagged with the “Big Blue” moniker, although many theories were floated. What I found even more interesting is not the color blue (which is arguably a favorite among many) but pairing it with the adjective “big.” It’s almost as if the New York Giants weren’t able to communicate their massive power with the word “giants” alone, and IBM weren’t able to communicate their world presence with the “international” in their official name. Instead, each of them also needed a nickname to communicate their size, scope, and power – a nickname that included the word “big.”

Big. It’s a tiny word, but it communicates so much, especially in the world of sports. Consider Big Ten, Big East, Big West. If a conference has big in its name, then it must be powerful, right? And individual teams that append "big" to their team names seem to indeed strike it big. Consider Big Orange (Syracuse).

But big isn’t reserved for sports. There’s London’s Big Ben, the Big Island in Hawaii, and The Big Apple (New York City). There are the Big Four accounting firms, the Big Four consulting firms, and the Big Four banks. (If you are going to attach to a number to further modify the adjective “big,” four seems to be quite a popular choice.)

We even seem to like our food names big; anyone for a Big Mac or a Big Gulp?

If you were to choose a name for a book, “The Big Book of Anything,” would surely be preferable to, “The Little Book of Anything,” and if you are going to a choose a nickname for a product, I strongly suggest you think big!


Liane said...

What you say is what you get, not so?! ;)

Dave E said...

In my musical disguise I am "The Big E" but that's because I am 6' 5" and 270 lbs and I've been seriously into weight lifting most of my life so I am BIG!
It usually surprise people when I sit down at a piano though! For some reason they don't associate someone of my size/physique with playing the piano.

As for things like the Big Four, that's just an alternative to 'Top' isn't it although big does imply a sense of size as well. I guess you could be a member of the Big four (eg most employee) without being the biggest money wise.
In the case of things like Big Island and Big Ben (actually the bell, not the clock tower) it refers to size (there is actually a 'little ben' clock tower).

As for the names of book, I suppose it depends on the idea you want to get across. Big implies it covers a wide range of stuff or is comprehensive in it's overage of a topic. Little implies it's handy to carry around, sort of a handle reference guide to whatever. something you can carry in your pocket.

As for Big Blue. I have no idea although I should I guess, I work for them (or is it an 'it'). I assume there was a time when Big Blue was not actually big but back then it was called CTR (Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company)!

Colette Martin said...

Dave, good point. Size and importance are very different things!

Carol Kilgore said...

I wonder if there's a Big Blue Blog?