Nearly every country on earth is named after one of four things is an article from Quartz that sped across feeds lately.

It does briefly hold attention. Anyone with a passing interest in the etymology of where names originate does think a little about their four categories in which we each reside;

  • a directional description of the country
  • a feature of the land
  • a tribe name
  • an important person (all men except St Lucia)

Although beware slightly. As “name origins are often murky, so this is an inexact exercise”.

This study appears called toponymy. Which made me think straight away what we’d term the naming of a new product or, better still, our bid/project in the prospect eyes. Many the time I have blogged (eg: 2012) on the vital edge that labelling your Sale and getting it adopted as the procurement name by your potential buyer gains.

I’d always go for figonymy. In part due to the latin language prefix ‘fig’. Something akin to fixing, as in providing a solution.

Should we also have simple rules for naming, like countries have? If so, let’s discuss possible a taxonomy.

Person In Who’s Honour

Starting with the most contentious. I have come across this. Where a junior person noticed something amiss and the search to buy what could make progress was titled their project. But it feels tricky to pull off. I struggle to imagine many an exec choosing to put themselves above the parapet in this way.

Cultural Alignment

I’m not really referring to celebopia here. No serious corporate recruitment will likely be happy about association with some Z-lister, current ‘hit’ or general memefest fad. More like the values or attributes – the soft benefits – which the imminent purchase is hoped to exhibit.


‘Replacing legacy system X’, ‘upgrading item Y’ or ‘automating process Z’ are not names to be recommended. Forget the ‘what’ and focus on the ‘where’. It could be a physical location. It’s more likely to be the place where you’ll know what success looks like. There is a mirror to this. That’s the problem your prospect seeks to eradicate. A destination from which to escape.


The simplest sobriquet. I’m reminded of many live examples of this I’ve seen. Away from selling, how about the world record breaking ambitions of incredible swimmer, Adam Peaty and his Project 56. The stranger the figure the better. One tailored and not rounded. Who needs another Project Million. A single digit may also help. Especially if its super-specific. Anything not immediately obvious but which really gets to the heart of why colleagues should rally round is a winner.

…But then there is maybe a caveat to all these. As we’re told “there are 20 or so mysterious countries whose name origins are disputed or unknown”.

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