I was reminded of this incident by a suggestion that we make haywire a Good Word from Albert Skiles. (Keep an eye open for this word soon in our series.)
When I was at yourDictionary.com back in 2002, we received a telephone call from the GM marketing department. They were interested in buying commercial names for their cars. We agreed and sold them seven (which, to my knowledge, were never used).
Then they called us back to ask us for help naming their new experimental car. It was a hydrogen fuel cell car with electronic stearing, braking, and acceleration. It had four motors, one on each wheel. They had temporarily named it the Hy-wire, combining hydrogen and (drive by) wire. We contributed four names to this project.
When we didn’t hear from them for a month, we called, and they told us that they had decided to stay with the name they had already chosen, the Hy-wire. That name, we were told, was the product of the 11-year-old daughter of the vice president in charge of naming.
I wrote an e-mail back to our contact, saying that if they came out with that name, only the employees at GM would use it. The general public would call it the Haywire.
Moreover, it was a bad idea to mention wire, since potential customers would picture a wire coming out of the roof that plugged into an electrical outlet. This was at the time that GM and all other automakers had stopped making electric cars and were collecting them all and grinding them in to bits and pieces because sales had never caught on.
Finally, I pointed out the fact that a high-wire act was an extremely dangerous act, exactly the connotation that they should avoid. This is not the impression to be given potential buyers, given the fact that this was a new kind of car that runs on hydrogen, a fuel the general public knew little about.
I never received a reply to my e-mail. You may read more about the Hy-wire here. Hy-wire is the worst commercial name I have even encountered. Worse even than the California pool servicing company called Poolife.