Wednesday, August 16, 2023

What's in a name? Twitter, X, Liz Sarkissian, Iman

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly

I know am not the first person to write about Twitter becoming X. A lot of people tangled themselves in pretzels to explain how X works/does not work as a brand, how X is a brand/not a brand, how X will become/will not become a super app, how X can/cannot be patented and the list continues.

The good news? X is here. The bad news, everyone keeps referring to X as "formerly Twitter". Well, if you are going to change your name, why bother keep calling you by your former name (I know the trans community is very sensitive about bringing up their "dead names") but this is Elon Musk we speak of, so any comparison to trans people is not really appreciated.

So what does this have to do with the actress Iman? Well, her original name is Liz Sarkissian - she highly intelligent, polyglot (8 languages), studied pharmacy and what have you - so when she wanted to launch her career in Egypt, she changed her stage name to Iman (which means faith). Until it turns out everyone kept calling her Liz Sarkissian. So the anecdote (and sorry I have no original reference to it) is that a friend of hers suggested she'd just put her name as "Iman, formerly Liz Sarkissian". Which obviously reminds me of X (formerly Twitter) in this case.

But truth be told, old names have a way of sticking around. When I used to go to work by bus, I used to pass "Damascus road" daily, specifically the stretch called "Becahra El Khoury" (it's near Sodeco if you want to know). At one point I just had to ask the driver as to why it was called so. Apparently there was a statue of our former president there, which got dismantled during the war, but eventually the name stuck. Another example? Cell phone carriers in Lebanon have changed names since at least 20 years. From Libancell to MTCTouch (then just touch), and from Cellis to Alfa. Yet, the major headquarters of the latter are still being referred to as "Cellis" despite the name change. Well, no one even bothers with "Alfa formerly known as Cellis", just Cellis would do.

So my question is - if X is going to hold as name, not sure why everyone keeps calling it by its other name.