speechEveryone is familiar with the sound trademark and the emotions it can evoke and impressions it can leave on the hearer. Case in point: turning on your Mac and all of the associations (work, fun, design, challenge, communication, search, opening the world…) that surround it are, I think, one of the most powerful features of my MacBook Pro and iMac. There are also the less loving sound trademarks, like cell phones, that simply remind you of the financial bondage you are stuck with through your provider.

But what about the ideophone?

“A vivid representation of an idea in sound. A word, often onomatopoeic, which describes a predicate, qualificative or adverb in respect to manner, colour, sound, smell, action, state or intensity,” according to C.M. Doke in Bantu linguistic terminology (1935) are we ready for the ideophone to take its place in product naming, branding, marketing and so on?

Ideophones evoke sensory events. They are expressive and dramaturgic in nature, a fancy way of saying that they help us perform lingusitically in ways that other ‘words’ do not. Of course, most make sense (meaning to listeners) only in the context of an individual language and, in some cases, a specific context. But they’re everywhere: Cantonese, Yoruba, Hausa, Ewe, Navajo, Hindi, Finnish, Vietnamese and more. To some extent, bling-bling is close to being an ideophone.

But imagine rather than word-based representations of, in the above case, ‘sparkly’, ‘ostentatious’, ‘luxury’ etc, we named products based on the sounds they actually make or that we make while using them: ideophones for Febreeze (psssst), Pepsi (aaaaahhhhh), Tylenol (insert gulping sound here), BMW (vroom, or more accurate purring sound of a motor) and so on.

Just a thought. Maybe a crazy one. Doubt it.