Jan 28, 2016

    Hi, I'm a member of ISIS - no, not the terror group

    SOMETIMES, I feel the universe hates me. On the morning of writing this, I found my Fitbit step-counter hadn't recharged, which meant that I was trapped in bed for an hour.

    But even more cursed by destiny, I reckon, are the folk at the World Taekwondo Federation, known as WTF. For years, everything was fine, and then along came the Internet and now everything they do sounds ridiculous.

    Trophies emblazoned with WTF make people laugh, cheerleading chants ("Yay, WTF!") sound absurd, and any kind of slogan looks silly: "Don't say Taekwondo, say WTF!"

    Now WTF boss Hoss Rafaty is giving up the battle and urging members to ditch the acronym and just say "World Taekwondo". I heard about this from sports-mad reader Allen Chiang so I canvassed regular contributors to share tales of other innocent organisations with names that were overtaken by circumstances.

    First up was Grexit, a United States software company who were proud they had invented a new word. But "Grexit" became a political term in Europe and the nerds were soon driven mad by people wanting to discuss Greek politics. Nerds know a lot about computers but almost nothing about complex real-life issues, such as politics, society and doing up buttons.

    Then, there were the many firms which have been harmed by the inability of Internet addresses to include spaces, punctuation or capital letters. So Experts Exchange had a clear enough name, but its web address, expertsexchange, was read completely differently.

    The same thing happened when Pen Island became penisland, KeePass became keepass, Who Represents? became whorepresents, and Old Man's Haven became oldmanshaven.

    A company which recycles old information technology hardware called itself IT Scrap.

    But it became itscrap in the web version.

    Web surfers' preference for short forms was a problem, too, as was discovered by the South Korean pottery training company which found their Web name constantly misunderstood: enjoypot.co.kr.

    Perhaps the most ironic case of events overtaking honest intentions was the story of ISIS, which long stood for the International Society for Islamic Secularisation, a group of people who are like most Muslims: modern, intelligent, lovely people.

    But now it's hard for members to even introduce themselves. "Hi, I'm from a Muslim group called ISIS and I - wait! I won't hurt you!"

    Name changes can be awkward too. Staff at Lakeview Typewriters in the US were happy with their business cards until the firm was bought by Allan Boring and they now work for Boring Business Systems (not a joke).

    Office equipment-makers in Sweden learnt that their boss had decided to name their company after the Swedish word for "logic", which is "stolen", which is why tourists now stop in Stockholm to take pictures of the Stolen office goods store.

    A financial reporter friend tells me that staff at the Third National Bank and the Fifth National Bank in the US had ordinary business cards until the two banks merged: "Now they work for the bizarrely named Fifth Third, which just sounds like bad maths."

    But there are occasional bright spots in this record of gloom. The European electricity firm PowerGen Italia became powergenitalia in the Internet age. The reporter said: "I expect most of the male employees, anyway, think it is rather a nice thing to have on their business cards."