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.

9 Facial Reconstructions of Famous Historical Figures

A facial reconstruction of King Richard III unveiled by the Richard III Society in 2013
A facial reconstruction of King Richard III unveiled by the Richard III Society in 2013
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Why look at a painting of a historical figure when you can come face to face with one? Forensic facial reconstruction using scans of skeletal remains allows researchers to create 3D models of the face through a combination of science, history, and artistic interpretation. The results may be somewhat subjective, but they’re fascinating anyway. Here are nine facial reconstructions of famous people.

1. Richard III

In 2012, King Richard III’s skeleton was found below a parking lot in Leicester, England, where in 1485 he was hurriedly buried after dying in battle. A reconstruction (above) shows a young man, only 32 years old, with a gentle, approachable face. It’s a far cry from the child-murdering villain portrayed by Shakespeare and other writers. One thing they said does seem accurate, however: The skeleton had a curved spine from scoliosis, suggesting that Richard’s humpback may have been real.

2. Bach

J.S. Bach’s bust has sat on innumerable pianos for centuries, but he only posed for one portrait in his lifetime. So this reconstruction of his face—which was taken from a bronze cast of his skull—offers an interesting glimpse into the man beneath the 18th century wig. You get the same thick neck, underbite, and stern brow you see in the painting, but the reconstruction’s friendly, confused stare lacks the soul of the real man … and his music, for that matter.

3. Shakespeare

Apparently, no one knows anything about Shakespeare for sure—his hair color, his sexual orientation, how he spelled his name, whether he liked his wife, etc. Some people aren’t even sure whether he wrote his plays or not. So this rendering, taken from a death mask found in Germany, is bound to be controversial. But if it is Shakespeare, it’s pretty intriguing. It shows a man who suffered from cancer and had a sad, soulful face.

4. Dante

Maybe it’s because The Divine Comedy dealt with the ugliness of sin that Dante Alighieri is usually depicted as unattractive, with a pointy chin, buggy eyes, and enormous hooked nose. But a reconstruction done from measurements of the skull taken in 1921—the only time the remains have been out of the crypt—reveals a much more attractive Dante. The face has a rounder chin, pleasant eyes, and smaller nose than previously thought. It’s a face with character.

5. King Henri IV

The mummified head of France’s King Henri IV was lost after the French Revolution until a few years ago, when it showed up in a tax collector’s attic. In his day, Henri was beloved by everyone except the Catholic fundamentalists who murdered him in 1610. The hard-living king looks a bit old for his 56 years, but there’s a twinkle in his eyes. What the model cannot show, however, was how much the king stank—apparently he smelled of ”garlic, feet and armpits.”

6. Cleopatra’s Sister

Cleopatra hated her half-sister Arsinoe IV so much she had her dragged out of the temple of Artemis and murdered. In 2013, researchers said they had discovered what may be Arisone’s body, based on the shape of the tomb, carbon dating, and other factors. The resulting facial reconstruction shows a petite teenager of European and African blood. And yeah, maybe this is closer to what Arsinoe would look like if she were trapped in The Sims, but since Cleopatra’s remains are long gone, this may be the closest we get to knowing what she looked like.

7. King Tut

King Tutankhamun, whose famous sarcophagus has traveled far more than the “boy king” did in his 19-year lifetime, had buckteeth, a receding chin, and a slim nose, according to 3D renderings of his mummy. His weird skull shape is just within range of normal and was probably genetic—his father, Akhenaten, had a similarly shaped head. Tut’s body also had a broken leg, indicating he may have died from falling off a horse or chariot.

8. Copernicus

Nicolaus Copernicus, who challenged the belief that the sun revolved around the earth, died in 1543 at age 70. When his body was found in 2006 in a Polish church and confirmed by matching DNA to strands of his hair left in a book, the Polish police used their forensic laboratory to make this portrait. They made sure to include Copernicus’s broken nose and the scar above his left eye. Who knew that the Father of Astronomy looked so much like the actor James Cromwell?

9. Santa Claus

The remains of St. Nicholas, i.e. Santa Claus, have been in a church in Bari, Italy, since they were stolen from Turkey in 1087. This reproduction, taken from measurements of his skull, reveal that St. Nicholas had a small body—he was only 5’6”—and a huge, masculine head, with a square jaw and strong muscles in the neck. He also had a broken nose, like someone had beaten him up. This is consistent with accounts of St. Nicholas from the time: It turns out that Santa Claus had quite a temper.

A version of this list was first published in 2013.

11 Fun Facts About Them!

Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
Warner Home Video

In the 1950s, Elvis was king, hula hooping was all the rage, and movie screens across America were overrun with giant arthropods. Back then, Tarantula (1955), The Deadly Mantis (1957), and other “big bug” films starring colossal insects or arachnids enjoyed a surprising amount of popularity. What kicked off this creepy-crawly craze? An eerie blockbuster whose impossible premise reflected widespread anxieties about the emerging atomic age. Grab a Geiger counter and let’s explore 1954's Them!.

1. Them!'s primary scriptwriter once worked for General Douglas MacArthur.

When World War II broke out, the knowledge Ted Sherdeman had gained from his career as a radio producer was put to good use by Uncle Sam, landing him a position as a radio communications advisor to General MacArthur. However, the fiery conclusion of the war left Sherdeman with a lifelong disdain for nuclear weapons. In an interview he revealed that upon hearing about the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima, he “just went over to the curb and started to throw up."

Shifting his focus from radio to motion pictures, Sherdeman later joined Warned Bros. as a staff producer. One day he was given a screenplay that really made his eyes bug out. George Worthing Yates, best known for his work on the Lone Ranger serials, had decided to take a stab at science fiction and penned an original script about giant, irradiated ants attacking New York City. "The idea appealed to me very much,” Sherdeman told Cinefantastique, "because, aside from man, ants are the only creatures in the world that plan to wage war, and nobody trusted the atomic bomb at that time.” (His statement about animal combat is debatable: chimpanzee gangs will also take organized, warlike measures in order to annex their rivals’ territories.)

Although he loved the basic concept, Sherdeman felt that the script needed something more. Screenwriter Russell S. Hughes was asked to punch up the script, but died of a heart attack after completing the first 50 pages. With some help from director Gordon Douglas, Sherdeman took it upon himself to finish the screenplay. Thus, Them! was born.

2. Two main ants were built for the movie.

Them! brought its spineless villains to life using a combination of animatronics and puppetry, courtesy of an effects artist by the name of Dick Smith. He constructed two fully functional mechanical ants for the production, with the first of these being a 12-foot monster filled with gears, levers, motors, and pulleys. Operating the big bug was a job that required a small army of technicians who’d pull sophisticated cables to control the ant’s limbs off-camera. These guys worked in close proximity and often crashed into each other as a result, prompting Douglas to call them “a comedy team.”

The big insect mainly appears in long shots, and for close-ups, Smith built the front three quarters of a second large-scale ant and mounted it onto a camera crane. During scenes that required swarms of ants, smaller, non-motorized models were used. Blowing wind machines moved the little units’ heads around in a lifelike manner.

3. Them! features the Wilhelm Scream.

Fifty-nine minutes in, the ants board a ship and one of them grabs a sailor, who unleashes the so-called "Wilhelm Scream." You can also hear it when James Whitmore’s character is killed, and the sound bite rings out once again during the movie’s climax. Them! was among the first movies to reuse this distinctive holler, which was originally recorded three years earlier for the 1951 western Distant Drums. Since then, it’s become something of an inside joke for sound recording specialists. The scream has appeared in Titanic (1997), Toy Story (1995), Reservoir Dogs (1992), Batman Returns (1992), the Star Wars saga (1977-present), all three The Lord of the Rings movies (2001-2003), and countless other films.

4. Leonard Nimoy makes an appearance.

In one brief scene, future Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy plays an Army man who receives a message about an alleged “ant-shaped UFO” sighting over Texas. He then proceeds to poke fun at the Lone Star State, because, as everybody knows, insectile space vessels are highly illogical.

5. Many different sounds were combined to produce the screeching ant cries.

Throughout the movie, the monsters announce their presence with a haunting wail. Douglas’s team created this unforgettable shriek by mixing assorted noises, including bird whistles, which were artificially pitched up by sound technicians.

6. Sandy Descher had to sniff a mystery liquid during her signature scene.

Like Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, Them! has a deliberate pace and the massive insects don’t make an onscreen appearance until the half hour mark. Douglas took credit for this restrained approach, saying, “I told Ted, let’s tease [the audience] a little bit before you see the ant. Let’s build up to it."

So instead of showing off the big bugs, the opening scene follows a little girl as she wanders through the New Mexican desert, listlessly clutching her favorite doll. That stunning performance was delivered by child actress Sandy Descher. Later, in one of the most effective title drop scenes ever orchestrated, a vial of formic acid is held under her character’s nose. Suddenly recognizing the aroma, the traumatized youngster screams “Them! Them!” Descher never found out what sort of liquid was really sloshing around in that container.

“They used something that did smell quite strange. It wasn’t ammonia, it was something else,” she told an interviewer. Still, the mysterious brew had a beneficial effect on her performance. “They tried to create something different and it helped me a lot with that particular scene,” Descher said.

7. Them! was originally going to be filmed in 3D and in color.

To hear Douglas tell it, the insect models looked a lot scarier in person. “I put green and red soap bubbles in the eyes,” he once stated. “The ants were purple, slimy things. Their bodies were wet down with Vaseline. They scared the bejeezus out of you.” For better or for worse, though, audiences never got the chance to savor the bugs’ color scheme.

At first, Warner Bros. had planned on shooting the movie in color. Furthermore, to help Them! compete with Universal’s brand-new, three-dimensional monster movie, Creature From the Black Lagoon, the studio strongly considered using 3D cameras. But in the end, the higher-ups at Warner Bros. didn’t supply Douglas with the money he’d need to shoot it in this manner. Shortly before production started on Them!, the budget was greatly reduced, forcing the use of two-dimensional, black and white film.

8. The setting of the climactic scene was changes—twice.

Yates envisioned the final battle playing out in New York City’s world-famous subway tunnels. Hughes moved the action westward, conjuring up an epic showdown between human soldiers and the last surviving ants at a Santa Monica amusement park. Finally, for both artistic and budgetary reasons, Sherdeman set the big finale in the sewers of Los Angeles.

9. Warner Bros. encouraged theaters to use Them! as a military recruitment tool.

The film’s official pressbook advised theater managers who were screening Them!& to contact their nearest Armed Forces recruitment offices. “Since civil defense in the face of an emergency figures in the picture, make the most of it by inviting [a] local agency to set up a recruiting booth in the lobby,” the filmmakers advised. Also, the document suggested that movie houses post signs reading: “What would you do if (name of city) were attacked by THEM?! Prepare for any danger by enlisting in Civil Defense today!”

10. The movie was a surprise hit.

Studio head Jack L. Warner predicted that Them!, with its far-fetched plot, wouldn’t fare well at the box office. So imagine his surprise when it raked in more than $2.2 million—enough to make the picture one of the studio's highest-grossing films of 1954.

11. Them! landed Fess Parker the role of TV's Davy Crockett.

When Walt Disney went to see Them!, he had a specific objective in mind: Scout a potential Davy Crockett. At the time, Disney was developing a new television series that would chronicle the life and times of the iconic frontiersman, and James Arness, who plays an FBI agent in Them!, was on the short list of candidates for the role. Yet as the sci-fi thriller unfolded, it was actor Fess Parker who grabbed Disney’s attention. Director Gordon Douglas had hired Parker to portray the pilot who ends up in a psych ward after an aerial encounter with a gargantuan flying ant. And while his character only appears in one scene, the performance impressed Disney so much that the struggling actor was soon cast as Crockett.

By the Texan’s own admission, his good fortune may’ve been the product of bargain hunting. “Walt probably asked, ‘How much would Arness cost?’ and then ‘This fellow [Parker], we ought to be able to get him real economical,” Parker once said.

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