The Link Between Marketing Trends and… Camels

By Karen Hendricks

Everywhere I look, I’m seeing “words” that are squished together.  I guess you could call them hybrids or creative compound words.  They don’t include proper spacing and they are not “words” in the traditional sense, but more and more of these “words” are becoming part of our everyday lives.  Maybe my head has been in the sand (pun alert) but I just recently found out this is commonly called “camel case” due to the use of both lowercase and uppercase letters, creating humps within one of these creative words.

For example:

  • iPhone
  • iPod
  • LinkedIn
  • PowerPoint
  • BlackBerry
  • YouTube

At first, I thought this was a symptom of the busy, hectic pace of life.  Maybe we’re all too busy to take the time to insert spaces between letters and words.  Or maybe marketers are afraid they’ll lose our attention if they don’t run words together.  And there’s probably some element of truth to that.  Notice how all of the “words” above are technology-related?

After a bit more digging, I discovered that the root of this recent phenomenon began with computer programmers in Silicon Valley.  Using software language, programmers had to run words together and omit all spaces.  At some point, the practice crossed over into the marketing world and it became a catchy, clever way to promote new products with entirely new names.

As a product of old-school journalism and a traditional, entirely proper grammatical approach to the English language, I’m not sure how I feel about this trend!  Although I’m firmly rooted and dedicated to good writing, oh how I love to follow the latest marketing tools and trends.  I have to admit, I’m a loyal iPhone user and I find it funny that autocorrect changes “iphone” into “iPhone.”  How silly of me to spell it wrong.

Although trends and technology go hand-in-hand, it turns out that camel case isn’t ground-breaking after all.   The ancient Greek language contained no spacing; words ran together in a continuous string.  And think of ethic surnames such as duPont or McDonald where uppercase and lowercase are combined.  Chemical formulas also mix upper and lowercase (FeO or iron oxide).

So I’ll keep watching for camels, so to speak, just for fun.  In terms of marketing, it seems like a trend mainly linked to technology.  I don’t see an established brand like Corn Flakes suddenly coming out with a new flashy logo re-positioning the cereal as CornFlakes anytime soon.  🙂

Sources:  Camel Case on Grammar Girl, Camel Case on Urban Dictionary, and you must read Caleb Crain’s 2009 article in the New York Times

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4 thoughts on “The Link Between Marketing Trends and… Camels

  1. This really isn’t about words being squished together as it is about trademarks and product names using camel case. I think that’s quite different from mash-ups like “airbag,” “healthcare,” and “mashup.”

  2. Laura you bring up an interesting point. I never thought of compound words as mashups but in some ways they are. The word “mashup” reminds me of music more so than writing (i.e. Glee songs being spliced together). Thanks for the food for thought!

  3. Karen,
    The upside of squishing words together is that all those spaces have to go somewhere, right? Hopefully they’ll migrate to my upstairs closet. God knows, I could use the extra room.
    Enjoying your blogs and thoughtful observations. Looking forward to more. Thanks for liking my blog.

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