What's in a name? Acronyms, in-jokes and lots of capital letters, if free software is anything to go by.
We look at some unfortunate choices that have been made at this critical stage of development.
Mageia is probably the worst example of distro naming in living memory. We thought it was called 'Magela' at first, because we read the release announcement in a sans serif font. At least that's pronounceable, unlike the name we were meant to see.
When a new project's forums have more posts on the pronunciation of the name than the code it contains, something's very wrong. Fortunately, this is a fork of Mandriva, née Mandrake, so the developers will be used to changing names midstream.
With all due respect to RMS, the name GNU/Linux just doesn't work - it's ugly in print and even more cumbersome in speech. How do you say it? 'Guhnu Slash Linux'? We don't think so.
How about 'Gnu Linux'? No, because then it's pronounced 'New Linux', which makes people wonder what was wrong with the old Linux. This isn't to decry the work done by GNU, but the name it wants is plain clumsy.
03. You're stuck with it
Whatever you christen your project, once people start using it you're stuck with it. Established names are hard to change - who still prefers to call Snickers bars Marathons? Be careful when you try to think up a name, because it will probably outlast your interest in the project.
How are we supposed to pronounce this? Years of education (some of which we actually attended) tell us that the 'G' is silent, but many people pronounce it 'Ger‑nome'. This is confused further by the original GNOME acronym becoming less relevant and a trend emerging of people calling it Gnome instead.
So, apart from how to write it and how to pronounce it, this name has no problems. How apt for a project that reduces options to lessen user confusion!
KOffice is a good name: it's obviously the KDE office suite. The component names seem sensible too: KWord, KSpread, KPresenter, KChart, Krita. Hang on, where did that one come from? Did the person responsible for picking sensible names go on a break?
Even if they've used meaningful titles for most of the suite, some of the KOffice team have decided that it's possible to change the name of an established program and forked it into Calligra - not even 'Kalligra'.
If you think GNU/Linux doesn't work, how about Lignux? Yes, really. That was one of the names for Linux suggested by the GNU folks. Embedding their recursive acronym in the word Linux is even more ugly than sticking it on the front. Thank heavens that idea was abandoned.
There's nothing wrong with Ubuntu, or even Kubuntu or Lubuntu. Ubuntu was a good choice of name, easy to pronounce and instantly recognisable. It's just that every other Ubuntu respin calls itself somethingbuntu.
Not only is this unimaginative and annoying, it also stops the distro from switching to a non‑Ubuntu base or gaining recognition as a distro in its own right, as Linux Mint has done, because the name will forever mark it as an Ubuntu respin. What next - Mikebuntu?
Naming without thought for the consequences of pronunciation reached new levels in 2006 with the release of the gNewSense distro. Whatever the name was supposed to convey, the usual practice of a leading 'g' being silent produces an embarrassing pronunciation. Perhaps one day we'll see a distro specialising in non‑free software called gNonSense.