Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Choosing A Blog Name That Doesn't Suck

A look at the best blog names and why they work

I've been asked more than once why I chose the name 'Brush Talk' for this blog. To be perfectly honest, in contrast to some of the agonizing I've done in the past over titles for things, the name for this blog came to me without a whole lot of thought.

Calligraphy created with writing brush
The blogging of yesteryear
'Brush Talk' refers to the practice whereby Confucian scholars in Classical China engaged in written conversations with their counterparts from Japan, Korea and Vietnam - all of whom shared the classical written Chinese language in spite of having completely dissimilar spoken languages - with calligraphy brushes and ink. This type of conversation (筆談, pronounced bitan in Mandarin and hitsudan in Japanese) was essentially a premodern form of social media that connected scholars from far away lands, although unlike today's social media, the participants did have to be in the same room as one another.

Why did I choose this as my blog name? It's short. It's punchy. It's easy to spell. It's sums up in primary themes covered in this blog, namely words, writing, communication and international relations. It also hearkens to Asian culture, which is a longstanding interest of mine and something that comes up frequently here. And, well, I just think it sounds nice. The only potential problem with the name is that it kind of makes the blog sound like a forum for makeup artists, and to date my Google searches of 'brush talk' bring up countless cosmetic-related sites. But all things considered, the name seems to be working well and I've thus far been happy with it.

So what does make for a good blog name? There are no hard and fast rules but most self-appointed blogging gurus seem to agree on the same basic criteria, to which I've added a couple of extras:
  • Make it relevant.
  • Make it memorable.
  • Keep it short.
  • Make sure it's easy to spell.
  • Make sure it matches your domain name.
  • Don't make it too niche.
  • Avoid airy-fairy descriptive adjectives like 'whimsical', 'effervescent' and 'sensual'. Actually, just sticking to nouns and verbs is a good policy overall.
  • Avoid all references to cupcakes.
Granted, there are always exceptions to these rules. I have no idea what the word 'Etsy' means but it seems to work and everybody knows about it. There is a US political blog by the name of 'Sadly, No!', a name that breaks rules #1 and and #4 (with its use of punctuation marks) but it scores so highly on #2 that it perhaps cancels the others out. And then there's a blog by some guy in Australia named 'The Man With No Blog', a name which I personally find irritating for its pointless irony but the weird blog connoisseur community seems to like. In the end I suppose it's personal taste.

However, there are some blog names that truly stand out for their perfection. They not only follow the seven rules I've outlined above but also do it with such style and character that they deserve special recognition. Here are my ten favourite blog names of all time (in no particular order).

1) Cake Wrecks - With the subtitle "When professional cakes go horribly, hilariously wrong", this gem of a blog is a perfect example of a perfect, punchy name that exactly encapsulates its raison-d'être.

2) I Blame The Patriarchy - The best radical feminist rant-fest on the whole wide web, with a title to match.

3) Green Shinto - This one does use an adjective, but it still works. A wonderful blog on Shinto spirituality and environmentalism.

4) Print Fetish - Exactly what you'd expect: a jarring, obnoxious blog about zine culture, alt magazines and print culture in general for people who are into that sort of thing. In a similar vein, check out Cover Junkie for people obsessed with cool magazine covers.

5) I Love Typography - Yes, I do, and yes, I love this blog - and the name thereof. And yes, I realize how geeky that makes me. Sigh.

6) Bug Girl's Blog - Bug Girl is a real-life entomologist with a wonderful blog dedicated to insect, offering, among other things, advice on controlling 'pests' without resorting to insecticides. Nice.

7) The Political Pastor - Kudos to my old pal Tyler Gingrich, pastor at All Saints Lutheran Church in Kelowna, BC, for this one. Again there's an adjective in it but in this case it's a very necessary one. Bonus points here for alliteration.

8) Look At This F*cking Hipster - Totally gratuitous name, but again that's kind of the point. No room for confusion with this one.

9) Turtle Talk - Those unfamiliar with the pan-Aboriginal name for the North American continent (Turtle Island) might find this confusing, but this great indigenous law blog is beautifully named.

10) Regretsy - With the brilliant catch-phrase 'Where DIY Meets WTF', this catalogue of Etsy disasters is one of the best blogs out there, with a brilliant name to match.

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