Category: linguistics

Name Your Thing!

Name Your Thing!

I spoke at AltConference 2017 about how to name things.

Last year when I spoke at AltConf 2016, things went really well… and I was invited to speak again in 2017 on the spot! (And I accepted on the spot, haha.) I actually started brainstorming this talk right then and there, so I had an entire year to ruminate on what I wanted to cover.

However, life takes its turns, and I was about 8 months pregnant on this trip–needless to say, my life has been a lot busier prepping for a new baby in the family! I spent a lot of time thinking about this talk in my head, but not nearly as much time actually prepping, writing, rehearsing, polishing my slide deck, etc. I was also sweating profusely and having trouble breathing, thanks to the little guy taking up space for all my vital organs and wreaking havoc on my physiology, haha.

All in all though, I still feel pretty good about how it went–the content being more pragmatic and technical actually lessened the impact of my relative lack of preparation, since the content was actionable despite not packing the same emotional punch (by design). At least that’s what I’m telling myself, based on the fact that many people stopped me in the hallways or reached out on Twitter and mentioned that they found my talk helpful!

Lastly, I want to thank and shine a spotlight on Nancy Friedman, and her blog Fritinancy. She’s an enormously helpful, friendly, and accessible resource, whom I would absolutely hire to name something if I were in that position again. (Yes, despite all my great advice, I think the best advice I can give is that it’s worth paying for qualified expertise in this domain, because there’s SO much you can get wrong!)

Thanks a ton for watching, and please share with anyone you know who is working on a project that they’re struggling to name. And now, on to the naming resources I mentioned in my talk!

Name Your Thing Resources:

My blog post on domain hacks

    • – tl;dr; don’t use them

United States Patent and Trademark Office

    • – check your name ideas here if you’re based in the USA


    • – Nancy Friedman’s wonderful naming blog. Look up her naming brief exercises in particular!

Every Frame a Painting – The Marvel Symphonic Orchestra

    • – video about how easy it is to ship movies with temp/default music instead of something more original. Temp music discussion starts around 6:00, but I recommend you watch the whole thing!

Name Your Thing template (Google Spreadsheet)

    – please save yourself a copy

And here is the URL slide choosing hierarchy I promised to include:

    1. Your name dot com
    1. wording compromise (getsquare, etc.)
    1. Hyphens or .net etc.
    1. Funky Tlds (.party, .io, .fm)
    1. domain hacks (don’t ever do these)
ᴡᴀᴛᴄʜ Unicode madness

ᴡᴀᴛᴄʜ Unicode madness

*Disclaimer* Unicode is not well supported in some browsers, especially on mobile. This is tricky since this entire post is about Unicode. I’m sorry your eyes might have to see ugly unsupported squares or blank spaces instead of the proper pretty entities I intended. If you’re interested in reading, soldier on; the characters in the actual list at the end are better supported than the letters that spell out the Apple Watch in the first paragraph. You can do it! Harass your favorite web dev about this today; they’ll *love* it!

Hey nerds! The recent iPhone and ᴡᴀᴛᴄʜ announcement has most people in my Twitter feed geeking out over how to write “ᴡᴀᴛᴄʜ” all fancy like Apple did. (In fact, my live tweet during the event explaining how to make the  character is my most popular tweet yet. Crazy, eh?)

For years I’ve been rocking an increasingly lengthy Special Characters note, which syncs across all my ᴅᴇᴠɪᴄᴇs. A few of these can be accessed via native keyboards like the Japanese one, but with iOS 8’s new keyboard capabilities I find it much easier to just stick the useful characters (mainly just the empty and full stars for fake review snark) here and delete the Japanese keyboard I never use for actual kana anyway.

Note that these Unicode characters aren’t the same thing as Emoji (that’s a whole separate ranty post) so I find they’re usually more annoying to obtain via typical channels such as an emoji app or keyboard. Copying and pasting from the note has been a pretty good solution for me so far.

The second most recent (penultimecent?) Overtired episode  made reference to writing ᴡᴀᴛᴄʜ out all fancy-like, so I thought Christina and Brett might appreciate my little list. (Heck, maybe Brett will decide to make a cool tool for it.) But then I was like, wait a minute… I send this list to tweeps and coworkers and clients about three times a year. I finally realized that maybe I should just blog it (duh).

Here are my favorites with my use case annotations, followed by my semi-exhaustive list and a Unicode smallcaps converter link I stumbled upon. I’ve added and removed things over the years to try to keep it mostly useful; I keep paring down different styles of arrows.

What characters am I missing? What would you add, or what do you constantly use and hate fiddling around to find? I’d love to know!

My frequently used Unicode characters

‽ = Interrobang
Marco Arment used this in a tweet at me once (I forget what about) and it inspired me to start up this doc. I also have a keyboard shortcut turning ?! and !? into ‽, so I don’t have to keep track of which one is valid, haha. (Nerds who are nerdy enough to know the difference but not nerdy enough to implement the Unicode shortcut surely exist and might set me straight.) This character is great for expressing baffled wonderment and the like, but I really wish Apple knew how to enforce an initial capital letter following it. Anyone know a hack for THAT?*

∞ = Infinity
I use this all the time as character-saving hyperbole. Like this tweet about my first babysitting experience in about a decade, to estimate the number of diapers changed. (Better than a smiling poo pile emoji, right?)

® ™ © = Legalese
I like using these for snarky fake product, company, and slogan jokes. Maybe you like using them to actually respect trademark guidelines, or ironically imply deferential respect to a brand you hate (or genuinely imply it to one you actually like but if that’s the case I’m not 100% clear as to why you enjoy reading my blog tbh).

∴ ≠ ≤ ≥ = Logic and Math Stuff
I like these (therefore, not equal to, less than or equal to, and greater than or equal to) for character-saving shorthand when making a point on Twitter. Remember, kids, don’t actually argue on the Internet if you enjoy your life. Jokey arguments only.

I just thought of this one

♯ = Sharp
I’ve never actually done this, but I just realized you might be able to use this instead of a hash character if you want to shorthand numbers or ironic hashtags or something without it converting to actual hashtag syntax in social media environments. So I’m adding that here in case it solves some weird problem you sort of had. I can’t believe I gave it a <h3> section either.

The list

Just copy from “Special Characters” through the URL, omitting the snarky footnote inelegantly implemented at the end of this post. I’m sorry/you’re welcome.

Special characters









*If the answer is 26 individual keyboard shortcut hacks for each instance of it plus a letter, or 52 for each instance of !? and ?! plus each letter if you can’t stack two shortcuts together, then congrats! You are officially nerdier/more patient than I am. Come type them in on my giant 6 Plus that I hope to obtain soon and I’ll give you some free online dating advice in exchange. Look, I don’t mean to profile, but it’s possible you need it if this is how you spend your time. Single 20s Me can totally relate.

Foreign language auto-correct death

Foreign language auto-correct death

Working in a multilingual environment sometimes makes using normal Office products difficult. This is quite possibly the most useful and least random blog post I’ve ever composed – can you tell I’ve been running into some bilingual frustrations lately? This weird little polyglot guide will help you fix the auto-correction insanity that sometimes takes over and makes your French look like English, or your English look like Spanish, or your Catalan look like a terrifyingly inaccurate hybrid of any of the above.

  • In Word 2007, select the Office button (upper left corner, looks like Office logo) and Word Options
  • In Word 2010, select File and Options
  • In Excel 2007, select the Office button (upper left again) and Excel Options
  • In Excel 2010, select File and Options
  • In Outlook 2010, select File and Options, then Mail tab, then Editor Options button
  • In Outlook 2007, select Tools, then Options, then Mail Format tab, then Editor Options button

Select Proofing tab, then AutoCorrect Options button

Uncheck the box Replace text as you type

Select OK for the AutoCorrect window.

Quick bilingual task check-in: This is a good time to make sure options like Enforce accented uppercase in French, Traditional/new spellings, and tuteo/voseo verb forms are set according to your organization’s style guide. (I’m sure there are some even more in-depth settings for certain languages, like German, that have had spelling reform.) It’s also a good time to make sure the dictionary language is set appropriately (Word and Excel), even though this is likely to change with your next bilingual task. I also like to make sure Ignore words in UPPERCASE and Ignore words that contain numbers are unchecked so I don’t accidentally miss anything that these options would mask. Lastly, every once in a while I run into AutoFormat frustrations — like with French apostrophes causing smart quotes to face the wrong way — so that can be another good section to pop in and disable, if applicable.

Now select OK again for the Options window.

All done!

With these steps, emails and docs can be a little more work since you aren’t likely to have your typos fixed while you type, but it’ll ensure greater accuracy. (Spell check and grammar check will still underline things that are wrong so you can spot unintentional errors and fix them manually. However, you’ll have to bid adieu to the automatically inserted graphical smiley face.) You can always re-enable these options to get your programs back to “normal.” Happy detail-oriented editing!

Obviously, this is far from linguistically comprehensive. (And don’t get me started on browser-tab-language-insanity.) I’m sure there are languages with even more frustrating quirks – anyone out there care to comment? (Spontaneous Tomato, perhaps?)

Siri, sync my sh*t.

Siri, sync my sh*t.

I was a relatively early adopter of the Cult of iPhone. Grant bought me a first-gen model a few months after it was released, and I’ve been an addict ever since. (I’m sure there are some fantastic other smartphones out there, but my 1st gen, 3GS and now 4S have never made me want to switch, even with some minor AT&T frustrations.) I have been using the sync functionality for a certain, limited number of podcasts since the first time I set up my first iPhone in 2007. I like sync. Sync used to like me back. So why, all of a sudden, does sync now suck?

Ever since I set up the 4S (as a brand new phone and not from a backup, just to be extrasupercareful not to import any glitches of yore) my sync functionality has been broken. iTunes regularly tries to load podcasts that I manually added once for a trip and then intentionally manually removed. This kicks me over the space limit and thus screws up some other syncery. It also attempts to sync to my phone even when I haven’t asked it to, even though I have all the relevant options un-checked. It thinks my phone is plugged in when it isn’t and thinks it isn’t when it is. It repeatedly says “The sync session failed to finish because the sync failed to start.” after I select the option to, ya know, sync. Half my podcasts that I do try to sync show up as greyed-out not-really-present content, which seems to mean they helpfully take up space but aren’t actually available for listening. If I then try to download one of these greyed-out podcasts that didn’t actually make it onto the phone via the iTunes app, the app frequently thinks the content is already downloaded and won’t let me grab it. When the app does allow me to download content that appears greyed-out on the phone,  iTunes on the PC then freaks out the next time I sync, as if it can’t handle this alternative reality in which its process didn’t work the first time around and there are now two copies of the same content. I’ve memorized the slightly obscure process to manually delete the phone’s last backup, but it never seems to help. I restart my computer more than ever now in order to try to combat these Appley problems, but to no avail. I’ve become familiar with error messages I’ve never seen before in my life, and I’m now accustomed to each sync attempt taking 45 minutes and at least three tries. I’m considering actually restoring my phone over this — yes, my approximately two and a half week old phone.

WTF? Where did sync go so very wrong? (And before Merlin Mann can get preachy about it, I should add that I don’t use iCloud, largely thanks to his prescient observations about its limitations.) I wonder how many other fairly savvy users are running into new glitches with old processes like I am. Siri doesn’t seem to understand my frustration, but at least I’ve trained her to curse on my behalf about it.

Ten reasons I haven’t blogged lately.

Ten reasons I haven’t blogged lately.

1) I got married. That was kind of busy.

2) I have a new job. It, of course, takes up a lot of my time, passion, energy, and tennis elbow quotient. But it’s loads of fun! I’m the French Linguistic QA Specialist at NCsoft, and I primarily focus on French-language text in Aion, a Korean-developed MMO.

3) I’ve been consulting more, helping people write ads or tweak their profiles. Check out my consulting page at for more info, but basically, between that and my full-time day job I’ve had less leisure time and less inclination to blog.

4) I’ve been blogging elsewhere. Namely, at, about beauty. Occasionally at my lovebl.og. Not nearly enough there.

5) I’ve also been Tweeting elsewhere. Mostly @heliotro_pe, sometimes @loveb_ug, and rarely @ginnielizz.

6) I went to Japan, which required the learning of some Japanese. And because of #2 I’m also learning some Korean. And we’re also learning some Brazilian Portuguese for a friend’s upcoming wedding in Rio. Whew!

7) Oh yeah, I changed my name. (See #1.) That was kind of a pain in the ass, truth be told. All done now, hence the new URL!

8) The aforementioned tennis elbow. It sucks. It makes typing and mousing lots really, really hard.

9) I’m trying to work on a book relating to my consulting practice (see #3), but #8 is obviously interfering. While there are entertaining tools to help with this, they don’t work so well on the go!

10) Turns out I only had nine reasons. :)

Word Salad

Word Salad

I recently got a copy of Dragon NaturallySpeaking, so I could type by dictation. (This decision arose partly from recurring tennis elbow that makes typing painful, and partly from my frustratingly long commutes from Redmond.) I thought I could dictate the text of the book I’m working on for my online dating consultation company while I was stuck in traffic, ya know? So I busted out the old Logitech headset-with-mic that I haven’t used since WoW raiding days of yore, and I gave it a whirl for the first time this morning.

OH MY GOD. This isn’t even close to language. It honestly reminds me of the linguistic disorder I learned about during college called Wernicke’s Aphasia, in which a certain area of the speech center of the brain is damaged in such a way that patients retain animated, fluid speech that is completely content-less and incoherent. A nickname of this syndrome is “word salad“.

Ladies and gentlemen, it seems that my voice dictation software needs a wee bit of training before it accurately captures my speech. You can’t make this shit up, people. Enjoy.

Good morning I’m currently working on Asian spies is a little bit reengineering however,.

I have no idea Latin American 1110. I know that I know he is. I know there’s a lot of know if you

everyone is getting done in.

In an online dating? Congratulations and that no one can and that if you give.

And I would leave you. If there is? Difficult mountain.


Waiting for a late-night everything? No I’m not minimum. You and your women noted by you. The diagram that you doesn’t mean you’re writing your danger personality enlightened on a brand-new look at all of your photograph exhibit name marble on the lottery. There is no need to go back to year of of the mainstream not been any young you begin here know. Usually Baden-Württemberg you know, the one in which you genuinely enjoying yourself, that was your you and your winning I’m you ever do you mean, you are using your picture and the a lot of John you are right the beauty of digital cameras being a mean we you know when you zoom into the living room you.

We know he means it when you knew you were the one I didn’t know I you never really know that you do you mine. You need me to write it down when I heard 1. However, the remaining years of online meeting you in your you are you reasonable me know if you, or newly named online. You never really know if you get a airport, the little white lie already you may how do you know you are you. However he is the you, you you you you you you you you, you invited me. I leaned that you didn’t find the other person wonderful, were a worry anyway not right for you. You are the you are reading now start, to know if you are you are oh you are you. I normally, though, if you’re going to be easy,

And… scene.

Piece of Mind

Piece of Mind

So there’s this stupid little head shop in Fremont and Lake City called Piece of Mind.  Now you MIGHT think that’s a cute little pun, but let’s examine things closer.  Take a look at their logo to the left.

So that’s a PEACE symbol, right? Like, world peace, peace on earth, peace and goodwill. Or PEACE of MIND. So you see, the name PIECE OF MIND would only be a good pun if the interpretation of the homonym /pIs/ that they were going for was, in fact, the PIECE meaning. I.e. a piece of pie, let me give you a piece of my mind, etc. FOR EXAMPLE.

So unless they’re trying to indicate that their shop, instead of giving one ‘piece of mind’, actually somehow robs them of a small piece of their mind, then they’re clearly not quite grasping the concept here.  And if, in fact, the whole piece thing IS in fact their desired marketing angle, then God help us all.

As another case study, let’s take a looksie at an example of a GOOD pun using the term /pIs/: Peace a Pizza, whose logo and name ACTUALLY MAKE SENSE.  Because, you see, traditionally you eat a PIECE of pizza, so changing their name to reflect the PEACE meaning instead is actually a valid pun here, that’s witty and consistent with their logo and branding.  Please take note, stoners of Seattle. Put down the pipe and pick up a thesaurus.

GOD THIS INFURIATES ME SO MUCH EVERY TIME I DRIVE BY THE PLACE.  Thank you for letting me get it off my chest, Imaginary Readers.  All better now.

Only at Nintendo

Only at Nintendo

So in a nutshell, working at Nintendo has been lovely.  According to company policy, however, I shall not be discussing anything remotely contentful relating to my work there.

Thus, Imaginary Readers, I leave you with this linguistic/gamer tidbit.  On the fridge in the break room, there is a sign that asks employees to take home their food “nightly”.  And of course, someone added an extra K.

Viva la nerd. I like this place. :)

Americans for Idiocy

Americans for Idiocy

I pretty much never watch commercials these days, since it’s 2008 and all. Praise DVR technology. But when I’m watching background TV while cooking or cleaning or some other around-the-house hands-on task, I’ll let the commercials run so I don’t have to interrupt my activity. And thus begins the rage/bafflement at the few ads that do get through to me.

I just saw one such Dunkin Donuts ad on Comedy Central, and I’m not quite sure what to make of it.

On the one hand, it’s potentially funny, I guess — I’m a total sucker for musical spoofs, and I laughed out loud at the baffled array of faces. But on the other hand, Grant puts it blunter than I do (for once):

[18:35] Hasukawa: Man, I’m tired of the “OMG WTF FANCY COFFEE?! I JUST WANT A COFFEE! HA HA HA” joke.
[18:35] Hasukawa: It’s, like, 20 years old. Fuck you.

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