Why do geeks pick such bad names?

I assume that someone who puts a lot of trouble into writing a piece of software, wants people to actually use it: so why pick names like The GIMP and Gigolo? Both are good pieces of software, but the names convey embarrassment rather than cool.The GIMP is the best known example. It is one of the best photo editors around — although professionals tend to prefer Photoshop because they usually have years of experience using it, and The GIMP, until recently, lacked the necessary colour depth for pre-press work.

For those (like me until this topic came up) are innocent about abusive American slang, “gimp” is a derogatory term for a disabled person. Not a brilliant bit of marketing.

I suspect the developers did not know what the word meant, but anyone with any common sense at all would look up a word before using it as a name.

Gigolo allows you to make a directory on a remote server appear as though it was on your own computer, and can be edited with any appropriate app you have installed. There are other ways to do this, but the method Gigolo uses will work with all the common methods for allowing remote access (SSH, SMB, FTP, WebDAV) so you can connect to just about any Windows or Unix (including Mac) server. Very useful.

So why give it a name like that? I would feel very uncomfortable using it in a work environment (and I have tended to work in informal places). It gets even worse when you look at the reason for the name. GIMP can be justified by its acronym (GNU Image Manipulation Program). Gigolo gets its name because “it mounts what it’s told to”. Tell that to your boss!

Of course obscure and would be clever acronyms are bad, but they merely fail to market. Gimp and Gigolo seem designed to actively deter people from using them.

Some people do learn. The rather childish Kool Desktop Environment became more professionally marketed over time, and became the “K desktop environment”, and it now appears to be only ever referred to using the abbreviation: I cannot find an explanation of what it stands for anywhere on the KDE website.

I hate to admit it, but sometimes it is better to have a few marketing people about!

2 thoughts on “Why do geeks pick such bad names?

  1. People who are prejudiced against names are simply bigoted. GIMP is the initialism to its real name – the GNU Image Manipulation Program – it’s their own fault for getting offended to this initialism. People need to grow up and learn to judge by function and intent rather than labels.

  2. In the real world words have overtones. Would you name a piece of educational software Friendly Ultimate Children’s Kit?

    AFAIK the name was suggested by a developer who had heard the word in its derogatory meaning and thought it sounded good, but did not know what it meant. Very clever.

    It matters and people should pay think about it. If the GIMP had a different name it would probably be much more widely used.

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