Home Columns Anantha Narayan Playing with fire

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    Diwali is round the corner. And pity, no one knows about John Walker. He’s the modern day Prometheus who invented the first-ever friction match. John retailed it under the awful name ‘Sulphurata-Hyper-Oxygenata-Frict’. Thankfully, he rechristened it soon as ‘Friction Lights’. Rest is history. Or let’s say chemistry.
    The fact remains that fire-themed names have always given a leg-up to anyone who’s chosen to blaze a new trail. When Amazon was researching the creation of an e-reader, they gave it the codename ‘Fiona’. But when they took professional help from branding consultant Michael Cronan, he suggested ‘Kindle’ as books have a tendency to set alight the innate curiousity. Kindle, by the way, is the Nordic root word for ‘candle’. And today, it earns billions of dollars.
    Autodesk, the giant software company behind Maya, was one of the earliest to realise the branding potential of fire. They named their entire entertainment suite using terms associated with pyrotechnics. The compositing and visual effects applications were assigned the appelations ‘Flame’, ‘Flint’, ‘Smoke’ and ‘Inferno’. A module of Flame meant for creative assistants was termed ‘Flare’. And the color grading software was labelled ‘Lustre’. These are mightily famous among movie editors and post production specialists.
    Cut to India. When the DRDO was in the process of developing a comprehensive range of missiles, they came up with five types: Agni, Prithvi, Aakash, Nag and Trishul. Have you ever wondered why, Agni is a household name while others are not? The reason is clear: Agni lit up a match inside us and burned bright in our mindscape. Maybe that’s why Abdul Kalam wrote Ignited Minds.
    Not just firebrands, even fiery personal names are stickier. Take the surname ‘Brando’ as an example. Half the swag of Marlon Brando comes from Brando. And it happens to mean ‘torch of flame or beacon’. Same with badminton player Jwala Gutta. Somehow her name is unforgettable. That power comes from ‘Jwala’ (‘intense flame).
    ‘Tinder’ is the one new age app that has tapped the virtues of fire to inflame the romantic spark. Curiously, the founders originally picked ‘Matchbox’and dropped it for something less explicit. In the end, their decision to bet on a word that meant ‘flammable material used for lighting a fire’ proved to be right. And their app has spread like wildfire.
    Caught any red hot names that stoked your interest?

    Anantha Narayan

    Fire away to anantha@albertdali.com.

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