History lessons: It's in the name - Sony

When the electronics giant was founded in 1946, it hardly had the catchiest name.

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Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Outside Japan, Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo KK would be near-impossible to pronounce. Impressed by the big American names such as RCA, NBC and CBS, its founders scoured the dictionary for potential sobriquets. They liked sonus, the Latin for 'sound', and also 'sonny', a popular term for a young lad. Unfortunately, it means 'money-loser' in Japanese. So they dropped an 'n' and found the perfect solution - simple, positive, and suitable for all languages (a lesson lost on the makers of Japanese drink Calpis). When a Japanese chocolatier hijacked the Sony name, the firm took out an injunction: its name had to guarantee quality. Company names these days rarely have much to do with the product. Take Orange. It has no link with phones but was good for visual branding - a perfect non-name. The Post Office made a bad call with Consignia, though. It's daft to reduce an established brand to nonsense, sonny.

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