Proper names in business

  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Product names
  • 3. Organisation names
  • 4. Event names
  • 5. Conclusion


Proper names are indispensable in and for business, forming the core of organisations’ corporate identity. They establish reference to a single entity, for example, to a specific organisation, good or service. This means that proper names in business refer to a specific object, even if this object is manufactured millions of times. Most business genres cannot manage without using proper names, as these not only allow unequivocal identification through unique reference, but are also essential for marketing. In advertising it is even possible to abandon all usual structural elements like slogans, headers, etc. (Janich and Runkehl 2013: 53-107), but not the name of the advertised product, service or, in the case of image advertising, the name of the advertiser. In some cultures the presence of the company’s or organisation’s name is common in advertising, in addition to the name of the advertised good or product (Jun and Lee 2007: 478-481).

The following descriptions will deal with the three most common and typical name classes in business: names of goods and services (product names), names of organisations and names of events. Other name classes, for example place names, which are used to localise business units and buildings in an organisation, or personal names, i.e. the names of people or groups of people, can also be used in business. However, they will not be discussed in this chapter as they are not specific to it, being found throughout society.

There is only partial consensus in onomastic literature on how to assign proper names in business to specific classes (Brendler 2004). In this chapter, we will adopt a classification of names according to the object classes named (Brendler 2004: 7172). Nubling, Fahlbusch, and Heuser (2012) apply such a classification in a fundamental work on onomastics. According to their classification, the names of goods and services, like the names of organisations, belong to the class of “ergonyms”, while the names of events belong to a separate class of “praxonyms” (Nubling, Fahlbusch, and Heuser 2012: 265-325). In accordance with organisational theory, the term organisation names will be used here to include company names. Nubling, Fahlbusch and Heuser make a distinction between company names and organisa-

DOI 10.1515/9781614514862-022

tion names, which they understand as the names of parties, authorities, museums, educational institutions and associations. For sure, our choice of terminology does justice to the openness of the object class named by these authors. However, it also acknowledges the fact that, in the era of discourse marketization, classes of randomly separated institutional objects are barely different from each other in their pragmatics and structure, as well as in their onymic character. Additionally, there are differences in onomastic literature regarding the term ergonym. It is used as the name of a class that encompasses the names of goods and services, of organisations and of further entities (Vasil'eva 2004: 605-606; Nubling, Fahlbusch, and Heuser 2012: 265-315). Because of this ambiguity, its use will be avoided in this chapter to which Fiorenza Fischer has contributed Section 3, as well as Section 5 together with Holger Wochele, Edgar Hoffmann Sections 1 and 4, and Holger Wochele Section 2.

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