Problem with Funny Business Names

Funny Business NamesI hate “funny” business names. They are usually puns. For example, here in the Bay Area, we have Site for Sore Eyes Optical Store. Look: I get it. When I first saw there was an eye doctor named “site for sore eyes,” I thought it was amusing. And there are other ones that I’ve thought were fairly clever. There’s the sporting goods store (Guess what they specialize in!) called “The Merchant of Tennis.” Or the “Church of Cod” with a little Jesus Fish symbol. Or best of all a fish & chips place called “A Salt & Battery.” Clever names all!

And then there are names that while clever are just a bad idea. There’s the hair salon named “Cubic Hair.” And the ice cream shop called “The Sweet Dairy-Air.” And most of all, the fishing supply shop “Master Bait & Tackle.” In addition to these all being coarse, they don’t make sense. What exactly do pubic hair, derriere, and masturbate have to do with what they’re selling. (If you know, please don’t tell me.)

This all came up because Will told me about a routine by comedian Brian Regan. Here is the routine that someone shot off a TV:

The problem with these clever names is that they are only ever clever once. After that, at least for me, they become annoying. What’s more, it reminds me of a scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. They are all going to head to Camelot. Then there is a musical number with knights at Camelot dancing arm in arm. Finally, King Arthur says, “On second thought, let’s not go to Camelot. It is a silly place.” And that’s what I think of when I see an ad for Site for Sore Eyes. Do I really want to trust my eyes to such silly people? (Of course, I know intellectually that this isn’t the case, but gut reactions matter regardless of what many think.)

So if you come up with a really clever name for a dry cleaning business, I hope you are a comedy writer and not dry cleaner:

Afterword

There are, of course, truly great names that are clever, coarse, and effective. The best example is French Connection UK, better known as FCUK. But that works especially well because it flatters their customer demographic about offending their non-demographic.

Alternately, some names work as a pun or not. A good example of this is Book Passage, a book store just down the road from me. But notice, it isn’t meant to be funny. It is just meant to be taken in a number of ways, each of which are appropriate to the business. It is also a great book store.

One thought on “Problem with Funny Business Names

  1. We have an upscale boutique garden store in Minneapolis called “It’s About Thyme.” There are apparently many of these nationwide. It’s an irritating name. And there are two other upscale garden stores within five minutes’ drive.

    Right down the very same street, maybe 10 blocks or so, is a place called “It’s About Time.” It’s a retired guy who does antique clock repair. Now that’s a good name!

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