15 Companies That Changed Their Names

Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images
Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

What's in a name? A lot, if you ask these 15 companies. Before they became the international powerhouses they are today, these businesses had decidedly different names.

1. BACKRUB // GOOGLE

It may sound skeevy, but the search engine’s early name was actually meant to reference the way it analyzed the internet’s “back links” to understand the importance and relevance of websites. “BackRub” lasted less than a year; the name “Google” was trademarked on September 15, 1997.

2. JERRY AND DAVID’S GUIDE TO THE WORLD WIDE WEB // YAHOO!

Close-up of the Yahoo! logo on a concrete sign.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

During its humble beginnings as a list of websites organized by Stanford graduate students Jerry Yang and David Filo, Yahoo! was named for its creators. By March 2, 1995, the duo changed the name to Yahoo, which, they joked, was an acronym for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.”

3. BRAD’S DRINK // PEPSI

In 1893, North Carolina druggist Caleb Davis Bradham invented a delicious concoction of sugar, water, caramel, lemon oil, nutmeg, kola nuts, and a few other ingredients. The creation, which he called Brad’s Drink, was an overnight sensation. In 1898, Bradham rebranded it “Pepsi-Cola” because he believed it was a health drink that helped with indigestion, also known as dyspepsia.

4. BLUE RIBBON SPORTS // NIKE

An orange Nike Swoosh logo on the outside of a retail store.
Photo by Getty Images

When Nike was founded in 1964 as Blue Ribbon Sports, the company didn’t produce shoes; it merely distributed them for Japanese manufacturer Onitsuka Tiger. When Blue Ribbon started making its own shoes in 1971, they also refreshed the brand name. Though “Dimension 6” was briefly in contention, founders Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman settled on “Nike” after the Greek goddess of victory.

5. AMAZIN’ SOFTWARE // EA GAMES

When former Apple director of strategy and marketing Trip Hawkins founded EA Games in 1982, he simply called it “Amazin’ Software.” As the company grew, Hawkins decided he needed a name that more accurately depicted games and software development as an art form.

6. SOUND OF MUSIC // BEST BUY

The outside of a Best Buy retail store with a large yellow tag "Best Buy" logo over the entrance.
Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Back when his store sold mostly stereo equipment, Best Buy founder Richard Schulze gave his retail stores the punny name “Sound of Music.” In 1981, disaster struck: A tornado ripped the roof from the Sound of Music store in Roseville, Minnesota, destroying the showroom and damaging much of the stock. Several days later, Schulze moved the damaged items to the parking lot and declared a “tornado sale” where customers could get the best buys. The company sold more items during the two-day tornado sale than they had ever before. Two years later, the business was renamed “Best Buy.”

7. STAG PARTY // PLAYBOY

When Hugh Hefner founded his risque men’s magazine in 1953, he originally settled on the name Stag Party, a nod to a book of racy cartoons from the 1930s called Stag at Eve. Right before the first issue went to print, however, Hefner received a cease-and-desist letter from Stag magazine, another publication for men. After considering names like Top Hat, Bachelor, Gent, Satyr and Pan, Hef decided on Playboy for the Roaring Twenties feeling it inspired.

8. PETE’S SUPER SUBMARINES // SUBWAY

The window of a Subway sandwich chain store with neon signs and advertisements in the window.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In 1965, 17-year-old Fred DeLuca took a $1000 loan from family friend Dr. Peter Buck to open a sandwich shop in Bridgeport, Connecticut—and named the shop after him. They sometimes had to shorten the name to fit outdoor signs and radio spots. “When people heard the name ‘Pete’s Submarines’ over the radio, they often thought they heard the words ‘pizza marine,’” DeLuca wrote in his autobiography. When customers showed up at his restaurant requesting seafood pizza, he knew they needed a simpler name. They changed it to “Pete’s Subway,” and eventually just “Subway” as the business grew.

9. MATCHBOX // TINDER

The hookup and dating app was first called Matchbox to play on the many idioms about love and fire—sparks flying, flames igniting, smoldering looks. But co-founder Jonathan Badeen said they knew the name wasn’t quite right, so they turned to a thesaurus for inspiration. “Tinder” caught their attention for being a somewhat unusual word, but also for its homonym, “tender.”

10. UNADULTERATED FOOD PRODUCTS // SNAPPLE

Five brightly colored flavors of Snapple in a yellow display inside of a refrigerated case.
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

The company that would eventually become Snapple was founded to sell all-natural juices to health food stores, so the original name “Unadulterated Food Products” was practical, if not catchy. One of their popular products was a carbonated apple juice marketed by its “snappy apple taste,” which was eventually incorporated into the brand name we know today.

11. THE ELECTRO-ALKALINE COMPANY // CLOROX

Though Clorox was intended to be an industrial product when the company was founded in 1913, its use became widespread when early investor Annie Murray suggested creating a less-concentrated solution for households. As the bleach became more popular, people started referring to it as “Clorox,” a portmanteau of its two main ingredients, chlorine and sodium hydroxide. The company caught on and renamed itself after the product in 1922.

12. PC’S LIMITED // DELL

A man in a suit (Michael Dell) speaking on a stage in front of a large Dell logo - a circle with the word "DELL" inside.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

When Michael Dell started doing business out of his dorm room at the University of Texas in 1984, he called his company "PC’s Limited." By the end of the year, the pre-med freshman had dropped out to grow his tech company instead.

13. GOODFELLOW’S DRY GOODS COMPANY // TARGET

In 1902, George D. Dayton became a partner in Goodfellow’s Dry Goods Company, a large department store in Minneapolis. By 1903, he took over sole ownership of the store and renamed it "Dayton Dry Goods Company." The business expanded for more than half a century before introducing a discount chain named Target in 1962. “As a marksman’s goal is to hit the center bulls-eye, the new store would do much the same in terms of retail goods, services, commitment to the community, price, value, and overall experience,” the company declared.

Dayton merged with the J.L. Hudson Company in 1969 to become the Dayton-Hudson Company. It wasn’t until 2000 that the company renamed itself “Target Corporation” after its core business.

14. TOTE’M // 7-ELEVEN

The company’s early convenience stores were named Tote'm after the way customers toted away their purchases—and to play on the name, many stores installed Alaskan totem poles out front. The name was changed in 1946 to reflect store hours: open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week.

15. RELENTLESS // AMAZON

An angled photo of the Amazon logo on the outside of a building.
Photo: JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images

If you type “relentless.com” into your browser, you’ll find yourself quickly redirected to Amazon. That’s because founder Jeff Bezos was sold on Relentless for the name of his burgeoning business. Friends felt that the word seemed a bit sinister, so he floated a few other ideas, including Awake, Bookmail, Browse, and Cadabra. The latter name, which referenced “Abracadabra,” was nixed when Bezos’s lawyer overheard it as “Cadaver” instead. “Amazon” was the winner because it suggested scale—the Amazon is the largest river in the world by volume—and because it started with “A,” which was valuable in an era when websites were often listed alphabetically.

5 Actors Who Could Play the Next Batman

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iStock

by Natalie Zamora

Ben Affleck's casting as the Caped Crusader wasn't exactly met with a lot of excitement. While many DC fans were (and still are) happy with the casting, many definitely weren't, and even took it upon themselves to think of who could replace him. Now, with Affleck's role in Matt Reeves's upcoming The Batman completely unknown, it's worth looking at who has been actually rumored to take his place.

5. JAKE GYLLENHAAL

Jake Gyllenhaal attends the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival - 'The Sisters Brothers' premiere at Princess of Wales Theatre on September 8, 2018
Emma McIntyre, Getty Images

As early as November 2017, Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal has been rumored to be playing the next Batman. Reportedly, Gyllenhaal had a meeting with Matt Reeves, something reporter Rob Keyes tweeted out at the time. When asked about the possibility, the actor shot it down, saying, "Wow, that’s a very difficult question. The answer to that question is no."

4. RYAN GOSLING

Ryan Gosling attends the 'First Man' press conference during 2018 Toronto International Film Festival at TIFF Bell Lightbox on September 11, 2018
Emma McIntyre, Getty Images

Another acclaimed actor, Academy Award nominee Ryan Gosling has also been rumored to take on the role of Bruce Wayne for some time. When recently asked at the Toronto International Film Festival if he would consider, Gosling simply said, "I don't know," before joking that if his First Man and La La Land director Damien Chazelle made it, he'd be in.

3. JOSH BROLIN

Josh Brolin attends the 'Sicario Day Of The Soldado' Photo Call at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on June 14, 2018 in Los Angeles, California
Matt Winkelmeyer, Getty Images

Although Josh Brolin now plays two major Marvel characters, Cable and Thanos, he once confirmed he was in the running for Ben Affleck's role in 2016. Ultimately, Brolin backed out after he had disagreements with Zack Snyder on how the character should be played. Ever since Affleck's departure from directing The Batman, Brolin has been rumored to take the role.

2. MATTHEW GOODE

Actor Matthew Goode attends the 'The Imitation Game' New York Premiere at Ziegfeld Theater in 2014
Slaven Vlasic, Getty Images for The Weinstein Company

Like Brolin, Matthew Goode was also one of the actors in the running to play Batman before Ben Affleck was cast. He was also reportedly considered for the roles of both Superman and Lex Luthor. Clearly, Goode would be welcomed into the DCEU. Now would be the perfect time.

1. JON HAMM

Jon Hamm attends the Premiere Of Warner Bros. Pictures And New Line Cinema's 'Tag' at Regency Village Theatre on June 7, 2018 in Westwood, California
Jerritt Clark, Getty Images

Ever since Jon Hamm played the dark and brooding role of Don Draper on Mad Men, fans have been rallying for him to play Batman. Though rumors have been circulating for years, Hamm just recently revealed that he has never had a conversation about the possibility. However, he did say he would be interested, if the script was good.

13 Secrets of Obituary Writers

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iStock

When Chicago Sun-Times obituary writer Maureen O’Donnell sits down to assess the lives of the recently departed, she feels less like a journalist and more like a historian. “I sometimes feel like I’m a frustrated history teacher,” she tells Mental Floss. “I get to teach a lesson every day and share it with readers.”

Unlike death notices, which only recite basic facts about the deceased, or funeral eulogies, which offer impassioned remembrances from loved ones, obituaries are a written memorial of a person’s legacy published for the world to see. Instead of dwelling on death they celebrate life, from the most recognizable celebrity to the quietest neighbor. They prove that almost everyone has a story to tell, and it’s sometimes only after a passing that people realize exactly how a person has left their mark in the world.

O’Donnell recalls a 2010 death notice for a Montana resident named Jim Cole, which mentioned his interest in photographing grizzly bears. Only after excavating details of his life did she realize Cole is the only person in North America to survive two grizzly attacks, 14 years apart. “They called him Grizzly Jim,” she says. “He wore an eyepatch because the second attack left him without an eye.” (Cole died of natural, not wildlife-related, causes at age 60.)

For more on how obituary writers approach the delicate art of human posterity, we asked several of them—including O’Donnell—to tell us about their work. Here’s what they had to say about a life spent covering death.

1. THEY LOOK FOR THE “ROSEBUD” MOMENT.

John Pope, who writes for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and assembled a book of obituaries, Getting Off at Elysian Fields, says that the goal of his work is to discover the “Rosebud” moment of an individual’s life. (That's a reference to the 1941 film Citizen Kane, and the desire of a reporter to define the mysterious dying word uttered by wealthy business magnate Kane.) “I look for ‘Rosebud,’ what makes a person tick,” he says. “When you talk to relatives, they talk about how he loved family, how he loved life, but you need to keep going and dig deeper.”

In 2009, Pope was tasked with profiling William Terral, a beloved pediatrician and gardening hobbyist. While the former was a noble career, Pope found his real jewel in the fact that Terral was once so struck by the bag of plasma separated from his blood during a medical procedure that he took it home, hung it from an IV hook, and pumped the liquid into the ground to see if it would help his garden grow. “His hibiscus flourished,” Pope says. So did his obituary.

2. IT’S ACTUALLY A PRETTY UPLIFTING JOB.

The stereotype of obituary writers toiling under the shadow of death, constantly aware of the fragile nature of life, isn’t exactly accurate. According to Pope, some family members have such fond memories of the deceased that talking to them can provoke a lot of amusement. “With Edward ‘Bud Rip’ Ripoll, a saloonkeeper, I had to ask his daughter to stop because I was laughing so hard and the stories were so good,” he says. (Ripoll was a Budweiser fan, and his urn was inscribed with the dedication, “This Bud’s for you.”)

O’Donnell describes it as “uplifting” work. “You’re frequently writing about people who made a difference in the world, large or small. The end of life is always sorrowful, but with someone like Mary White, who lived to be 93 and started the La Leche League [to normalize public breastfeeding] in her living room that now has tens of millions of members across the globe, that’s inspiring.”

3. THEY SOMETIMES KNOW WHEN DEATH IS IMMINENT.

Yellow flowers sit on top of a coffin
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Obituary writers have all kinds of information channels when it comes to mortality. Funeral homes may call to notify them; death notices in their paper or in another might provide a clue that a lesser-known person’s life is worth investigating further. Or they may simply be tipped off that the end is near. “For Barbara Harris, who was a founding member of Second City, one of my co-workers heard she was ill,” O’Donnell says. “I was able to prepare the obituary in advance, so when the time came, there was something comprehensive for readers available.”

Other times, that information can be a little off. When an editor was sure a prominent celebrity was going to die, Pope was told to prepare a lengthy obituary. “It was Paul Prudhomme, a chef who a line editor was convinced was going to launch to glory at any moment," Pope says. “He died 27 years later.”

4. THEY NEED TO BE READY FOR AN EMOTIONAL DELUGE.

Mike Bodine, who writes for the Sheet in Mammoth Lakes, California, says that an obituary writer will often be the first person a relative of the deceased has spoken to in depth about a loved one’s passing. “They can be really distraught,” he says. “It’s a matter of waiting it out while people just let their heart out. You can’t always use what they’re saying, but just listening and being patient can help open people up. It can feel a little bit like handling the body itself. You don’t want to push people.”

5. THEY CAN GET CAUGHT UP IN FAMILY SQUABBLES.

Phoning family members to collect memories of the recently deceased can be a sobering experience. Bodine says that children of the deceased can sometimes try to use an obituary to vent about personal vendettas. “When someone has passed and a lot of money and kids are involved, it can turn into animosity,” he says. “Someone will say a sibling is screwing them over on money. It’s just distortion you have to wade through.”

6. FAMILIES CAN GET UPSET AT THEM.

While an obituary writer’s job is to celebrate life, that doesn't mean they exclude the less-flattering components. When he was writing about a local politician, Pope discovered that he had once been to prison for misappropriating campaign funds. When he mentioned that in the obituary, the man’s daughter phoned in an uproar. “She asked why we were doing that. I told her it was because it was the truth.”

O’Donnell has had similar experiences. “Unfortunately, in Chicago, a lot of politicians have been investigated and convicted of corruption," she says. "It gets reported at the time it happened and readers would have known about it. It would be a disingenuous, fraud obituary if you didn’t include it.”

7. OTHER TIMES, PEOPLE LIE.

Family members may also omit certain facts. Because obituaries are perceived as the last word on many people, relatives and friends sometimes lean into the idea it should be a hagiography. “With [socialite] Mickey Easterling, no one was going to tell me her age,” Pope says. “I had to cite public records, which I’ve never had to do before.” On another occasion, the deceased’s loved ones refused to inform Pope that a suicide had occurred. He found out the truth months later, after listing the cause of death as “undetermined” in the obituary.

8. IT’S BETTER TO DIE ON CERTAIN DAYS THAN OTHERS.

A death certificate sits on top of a table
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If you want a well-read obituary, try to die on a Friday. According to Pope, people who expire that day of the week are more likely to be targeted for inclusion in the Sunday edition of the paper, which affords more space and more time for the obituary writer to do a thorough job. “Dying on a Friday will get you more play on a Sunday,” he says. Holidays are also ill-advised times to make an exit, as reporters with dedicated beats (politics, movies, sports) aren’t usually around to assist in reporting notable deaths in those fields, and readership is down.

While you'd think the dying and their associates would have more pressing issues, sometimes they prioritize that recognition: In 1936, King George V's physician injected the monarch with enough morphine and cocaine to hasten his death in time for the next morning's papers, rather than the less-desirable evening editions.

9. PEOPLE CAN BE A LITTLE NERVOUS AROUND THEM.

When an obituary writer becomes well-known in the community, their very presence can portend bad news. If Pope needs to phone someone for any reason other than someone’s passing, he’ll sometimes begin the call by saying, “It’s Pope. No one died.”

That slight unease can work both ways. Once, Pope walked into a social gathering where three people whose obituaries he had already written and banked for future use were standing. “I just kind of stopped,” he says.

10. THEY GET INVITED TO FUNERALS.

Obituaries are often treasured by families who appreciate how a writer has summarized and memorialized the deceased. Sometimes, that gratitude can extend to invitations to come to the funeral. “That happens with some frequency,” O’Donnell says. “I went to the services for a rock concert roadie, who I didn’t know, but he worked a lot of rock concerts I went to the in 1970s. I met a lot of people there who went to the same concerts.”

Other times, they’ll be dispatched to cover the funeral for the purposes of writing a piece. “I went to Al Copeland’s funeral, the founder of Popeyes Chicken,” Pope says. “There were 24 white Bentleys, a horse-drawn hearse, and a band playing ‘My Way.’” The solemn music continued until the procession reached the grave, at which point they broke into “Love That Chicken From Popeyes.”

11. CERTAIN PHRASES CAN ANNOY THEM.

Work the death beat long enough and certain recurring phrases begin to wear on a writer’s patience. Pope dislikes using the term the late to precede a decedent’s name. “What’s the point?” he says. “Can we get over that?” He also dislikes funeral service because “it’s redundant,” and avoids using “natural causes” as the reason for a death whenever possible, because it's non-specific. "Always get the cause of death," he says.

12. SOME PEOPLE USE OBITS TO TAKE REVENGE.

A highlighter is run over the word 'revenge'
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O’Donnell says she's struck by the more contemporary practice of “revenge” obituaries, which are penned by family members and tend to criticize their departed relative for allegations relating to abuse or other personal reasons that have prompted a vendetta. Pope recalls a time when a widow sent in a death notice to his paper claiming her late husband’s law firm had sent him to an early grave. “We spent a day with lawyers de-fanging it,” he says.

13. THEY HAVE THEIR OWN AWARDS SHOW CALLED “THE GRIMMYS.”

Acting as a kind of unofficial trade organization, the Society of Professional Obituary Writers invites devotees of the dead to exchange information on their work and attend functions like ObitCon. Each year, awards—known as the Grimmys—are awarded for best long- and short-form obituaries, as well as for lifetime achievement. The trophy resembles a tombstone. “I was nominated last year,” Pope says.

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