What’s In a Name?

‘That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.’
-William Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene ii)

Where did the name Lexplorers come from?   We thought it would be fun to recap the thought process behind the name.

The name Lexplorers is a mashup of explorers and  lex-.   The explorers part should be self-explanatory: from the American Heritage dictionary, explorers are “those who investigate systematically.”     The lex- part comes from the Latin lexis (“word”), which in turn came from the Ancient Greek λέξις / léksis (word).   Lex is the root for many common English words having to do with words, including lexicon, lexeme, dyslexia, lexical, and (our personal favorite) lexiphanic.

Thus we created the composite word Lexplorers, which we felt had the appropriate semantics but was also a unique and catchy name.   We thought the name Lexplorers would suggest seeking out and delving into new languages, and it also would evoke journeys to magical places where those languages are spoken.   That was the goal, and it may sound like we thought all this through before creating the name.  In reality, the naming process was much messier and not at all principled.  Before we settled on Lexplorers, we cycled through and discarded many many other candidates.

The main barrier was that we needed a domain name for the site, and almost all of the domain names we looked at were already taken (it being 2017, after all), most of them by cybersquatters who were trying to sell them for much more than the $10 we were willing to pay for a domain name.    Our top candidate, and the clear favorite among friends and family who sanity-checked our candidates, was linguaphile, meaning “lover of language” (lingua from Latin, meaning “speech, ” and “phile” from Ancient Greek φίλος  / phílos, meaning “dear,  beloved”).   It seemed to describe pretty well what we had in mind.  Unfortunately, being an actual English word meant that any available domain containing “linguaphile” would cost us hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in ransom (interestingly, a word from the Old French raençon, meaning “fee paid to release someone from prison or captivity”).   We also considered some generic sounding constructions like languagejourneys, languagefile, and languagejournal, but all were either already claimed or were deemed to sound too much like the name of a travel website.   Another of our favorites, The Lex Files, was sadly also taken.

Since we enjoy wordplay and puns, we started trying to create new words from ling, while being careful to avoid uses of ling that might be misconstrued (the Latin lingua ‎can also mean “tongue”).   We came up with candidates like linguadventures, lingovertures, lingomaniacs, and even linguacamole, all vetoed as being awkward.   Our most promising seemed to be new words combining lexicon with words starting with con-, creating such gems as lexiconversations, lexiconfection, and lexicontemplation.

These all just led to lexiconfusion among our sanity testers, but they eventually got us onto the fruitful path of combining lex- with a word starting with ex-.  Thus lex- plus explorers: Lexplorers.   It had the added bonus of allowing us to make all kinds of awful puns using the many other words that start with ex-.  We checked lexplorers.com, saw that it was available and within our $10 budget.   It was a lextremely lexhausting lexperience and a bit hard to lexplain, but we were lexcited, even lexstatic, to finally have a lexcellent name, and in the end we lexchanged glances and lexhorted “Lex do it!”

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