While writing about the word Bluetooth the other day, I was struck by how obviously unusual it seems for a name for wireless technology, yet how equally not unusual at all it seems.
I realised that the name had never stood out as being unusual to me until a few years ago, when I first heard about the history behind the name. The story made me conscious of the fact that the name indirectly refers to someone’s tooth. This in turn made realise that I’d never once thought it odd that the name of the technology contained the word tooth, even though there’s no obvious link between teeth and wireless communication.
There’s nothing blue about it either, but that had never really stood out as unusual.
I suppose the main reason is that the name just has a nice ring to it. Like Netflix. The two words together create a nice rhythm. And because individually they’re both monosyllabic, they create a compound noun with two syllables, which is quite common for regular, non-compound nouns. If the name had been something like Blue-earlobe or Blueshoulder, it probably wouldn’t have sounded so natural.
The stress is also quite normal, with a major stress on Blue, but a minor lift on the second syllable.
Plus, we don’t always consciously consider the distinct parts of a compound noun separately. How many people really think of the extra- part of extraordinary as being the word extra? So even though now that we’re thinking about it, the word Bluetooth is quite clearly made up of the words blue and tooth, why we would we ever really think about it, unless someone draws our attention to it, and makes the word seem strange to us for the rest of our lives?