Ideophones around the web: ideophones and product naming

This long overdue instalment of Ideophones around the web features ideophones in the names of snappy new mobile apps from an Indian software startup.

I’d noticed long ago that the domain “” was registered by a domain name squatter, and I wondered whom they thought would be interested. A videophone company perhaps? Anyway that particular domain has been lying dormant for years now with one of those useless “what you need when you need it” templates on it.

Recently however a real company called “ideophone” has entered the scene: The people at make mobile apps for commuting people — “redefining commute”, as they say themselves, with mobile apps that are journey- and location-aware. Some cool things about this company are the multilingual people behind it — they speak Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, English and Hindi — and the fact that their product names are inspired by ideophones.

Ideophonic apps

One of the products of this company is a digital metering app which shows time and distance travelled during rikshaw and taxi rides. Here’s what Sundar writes about the name of this app:

It sounded like a neat idea to name the app with an ideophone. It’ll evoke the same impression in people speaking different languages, right?

Given that the bulk of the Bangalore population speaks some Dravidian language or other, the choice fell on Suruk, which connoted diligence, speed, sharpness etc. signifying what Suruk does. And, it helped that was available.

Product naming isn’t exactly my expertise (for that, I look to Fritinancy), but it is certainly not a bad idea to use ideophones to name your products. In fact the use of sound-symbolism in product names is quite a thing nowadays, with researchers from marketing and (psycho)linguistics weighing in on the issue (Klink 2001, Lowrey et al. 2007, Yorkston & Menon 2004). And with the linguistic sophistication displayed by the people behind Suruk, Pyka, and other apps, Ideophone is certainly a nice name for the company itself.

The good people at credit this blog for inspiration. Folks, I’m surely happy to be of help, and I salute you! I’m looking forward to your new products. Meanwhile, if you want some ideophones, check out my thesis!


  1. Klink, R.R. 2001. “Creating meaningful new brand names: A study of semantics and sound symbolism.”
  2. Lowrey, T.M., and LJ Shrum. 2007. “Phonetic symbolism and brand name preference.” Journal of Consumer Research 34 (3): 406.
  3. Yorkston, E., and G. Menon. 2004. “A sound idea: Phonetic effects of brand names on consumer judgments.” Journal of Consumer Research: 43–51.

6 thoughts on “Ideophones around the web: ideophones and product naming”

  1. Hi Mark,

    We’re very happy to know that you liked our naming convention. Thank you very much for writing this post. :-)

    I’ll read your thesis and surely ping you when we need help regarding ideophones for our future apps.


  2. I liked the way you described Ideaphones and Suruk, and especially the support you provided with your references. I haven’t used Suruk yet, but I’m interested in it.


  3. Thank you for your interest and support, Selva. :)
    Look forward to your feedback on our products. Feel free to write to me at sundar at ideophone dot in.

  4. This is very exciting, Mark! Thanks for bringing it to light. Have you also noticed that there is a political blog called ‘boing boing’, maybe to describe the bouncing of ideas back and forth? I also seem to recall a blog with a name like ‘kersplat’ or something like that, written by an Iraq war veteran. Ideophones might just be on the verge of becoming mainstream.

    Janis Nuckolls

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