The Worst Name Changes in the History of Name Changes
Look, all names are not created equal.
For every Chris Rock or Thurl Ravenscroft, there must also exist a Mike Rotch, a Greg Ass or a Sebastian Hitlerlover. For human names, adding insult to injury is the fact that by necessity, you’re incapable of participating in the decision process. The name that’s going to be shouted across playgrounds, cafeterias and Starbucks interiors for the rest of your life was decided while you were focused on growing the right number of toes. You can, of course, legally change your name, but that’s a whole thing that comes with its own baggage, like disrespecting the memory of your war-hero grandpa who was perfectly happy with the name Jethrolomew, thank you very much.
You also invited the worst outcome of all, one in which you change your name, only to find that you have, even when given total agency, chosen poorly. It’s one thing when overstressed, sleep-deprived parents-to-be have a lapse of judgment and saddle some poor kid with a sexual portmanteau that will devastate their middle school years. It’s another when, given every advantage and ample time, you fall into the same trap. It’s even more impressive when a name change is thoroughly botched by a company, despite access to consultants, focus groups and a board of what they assure everyone are very smart directors.
To that end, here are some of the worst name changes in the history of name changes…
Look, before the world’s worst sports radio call-in guys start rejoicing, I’m not about to defend the Washington team’s original name/slur of “Redskins” that they actually picked up while in Boston (but of course). One would just think that, given two years of hemming, hawing and “collecting data,” they might have ended up with a name that wasn’t notably worse than the middling, stopgap name they chose — the Washington Football Team — to fill merch shops while they were brainstorming. Anyone from the area or who’s an adopted fan of the team (though I don’t know why someone would embrace that pain) familiar with owner/nematode Dan Snyder knew that from day one we were going to get whatever terrible name Snyder had long decided upon, polls be damned, because the only “fan input” he’s ever cared about are the season-ticket payments he’ll sue 72-year-old grandmothers over.
The Washington Football Team was goofy, but at its core, very fun, which I suppose does make it fairly unfitting for something related to supporting D.C.’s football team. Instead, after trumpeting a respect for the storied history of the team, what was eventually produced and printed on the hideous uniforms that Snyder’s wife was “heavily involved” in the design of, was exactly the sort of meaningless, military hoo-rah bullshit everyone expected anyways. Maybe the deepest connection to this stupid name is how a group in which everyone is apparently a Commander would echo the team’s massively disjointed organizational structure. If, by the grace of god, Snyder finally sells the team, whoever comes in next, just know D.C.’s not married to any of this. Except for Left Hand Up.
Another business name change that was so strange and so botched that it’s almost just been entirely wiped from the collective memory is Netflix’s sudden announcement that they would be cleaving their business in twain, resulting in the online streaming bits remaining “Netflix” while the other service, where they send scratched DVDs to your parents, was going to be called, inexplicably, “Qwikster.” Honestly, Qwikster is an incredible name, just not for any positive reason. It’s impressive linguistically in that it’s a word or phrase that no one has ever heard or spoken before, but is somehow immediately repugnant to any ear or eye that absorbs it.
The actual decision to split the company’s services, and the name chosen, are worth an oral history that, unfortunately, probably involves a group of decision makers that Netflix has since quietly relocated and/or killed. The cherry on top of the whole fiasco was the realization that Netflix seemed to have put almost zero effort or research into the availability of their new name on social media. Because somehow, despite choosing a name that was absolute Silicon Valley gobbledygook, it was already occupied on Twitter by a very high Elmo.
Into the realm of real people, even if they might be thoroughly cartoonish ones, we come upon Snoop Dogg — already, quite obviously, a name chosen postpartum, but undeniably cool. No criticism will be uttered here for that name. Dogg’s brief dalliance with the name Snoop Lion, though? That, I feel, is fair to criticize. It apparently came from a spiritual awakening in Jamaica and a conversion to Rastafarianism, which, sure, that all tracks. It’s just a classic case of, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Not only was it not broke, you were someone who successfully convinced an entire world of people to call you “Snoop Dogg.” That is incredible charisma and power. It’s a nickname that most people across the world could only dream of, the sort of thing they’d attempt to debut at the watercooler only to be laughed out of a job. Why would you trade something that iconic for a name that seems inspired by one corner of a college dorm poster sales section?
Thankfully, even through a thick cloud of roasted bones, Snoop seems to have realized that he’d already reached the summit as far as nicknames go, and has since switched back.
I don’t know what it is about the city of Washington D.C. and its insistence that every piece of connected sports memorabilia be embarrassing for a grown adult to wear, but we’re back in the nation’s capital. At least the football team had a genuine reason for changing their name, instead of the pearl-clutching idea that a basketball team in a city with a high murder rate being called the Bullets was somehow worth giving a shit about beyond a couple bad jokes. Apparently, the specific impetus for owner Abe Pollin was the killing of Yitzhak Rabin, which doesn’t really make any of this less muddy.
Look, gun violence aside, Bullets is an undeniably solid, classic sports team name. The logo was cool. The uniforms were iconic. There were championships won under the moniker. Bullets themselves are both fast and accurate, two things that are excellent to be in the game of basketball. To throw that all in the trash and then in one smooth motion explain to a city that they are now “Wizards fans”? Yeesh. Alliteration is fun in team names but there’s usually, you know, a second thing. The only good thing to come out of anything is the mascot, G-Wiz, and that’s just because he’s an absolute weirdo beaked (?) freak that I’d happily watch jump off a mini-trampoline anytime.
You may not know this, but Kentucky Fried Chicken officially changed their name to KFC in 1991. You may not know this because it doesn’t fucking matter at all, and it feels like something done just to fuck with us. It’s an abbreviation! One is the other! What kind of confusing identity crisis are you going through back there behind the fryers? Popeyes would never do this to us. Also, stop trying to convince people that they would ever want “potato wedges” instead of french fries. Cut them thinner and grow up, you bullheaded fucks.