Sorry, Microsoft, you're not the only Bing in town

TiVo. iPod. Prius. For years, global corporations' marketing teams and branding firms have had a bit of fun coming up with their own made-up words, leaving their dictionaries in the drawer. Making up words for the global market is so much fun -- and such big business -- that MacArthur "genius" grant winner Colson Whitehead even wrote a novel about it. Google (GOOG) went a little meta on the trend, whether inadvertently or deliberately, by corrupting "googol," a word coined in 1938 by the nine-year-old nephew of an American mathematician who wanted a snappy term for his concept of 10 the power of 100.
By the time Microsoft (MSFT) unveiled its Google competitor, Bing, it had spent months on the name, which Steve Ballmer appreciates for its brevity, its euphony ("the sound of found," Microsoft suggests), and freedom from predetermined connotation in any language. Never mind that Microsoft overlooked one unfortunate acronym, already getting kicked around by the nerderati -- "But It's Not Google." Its first serious misstep was to avoid consulting with Stanley Bing. A CBS executive better known in the business media as Fortune's humor columnist, Bing (né Gil Schwartz) lashed out at Microsoft yesterday in a satirical press release on his Bing Blog.

"For 25 years, I have jealously guarded the value of my brand," read Bing the writer's complaint against Bing the search engine. "For several years, it was threatened by the enormous reputation of Rudolf Bing, the fictional presence of Chandler Bing and the high-profile persona of Stephen Bing. This, however, is the worst challenge the Bing Brand has faced to date, particularly in regards to my search engine optimization positioning."

Actually, there's a far greater challenge that Stanley Bing -- not to mention Microsoft Bing -- ignore at their collective peril. That would be Bing Bunny, charming star of such toddler tales as Bing: Get Dressed, Bing: Paint Day, and the unambiguously titled Bing: Yuk, which applaud Bing's resourceful nature with the refrain: "Good for you, Bing Bunny!" Author Ted Dewan, based in Oxford, England, describes Bing as "a bunny with attitude" -- which is only fair, as Dewan's Bing was dreamed up on the London Underground in 2000, nine years before Microsoft's Bing was released from Redmond.

Dewan's website reveals a crafty author with far more to his resume than an inventive toddler series. He's a transportation activist, whose efforts to calm traffic in his Oxford neighborhood have included the construction of the Megabunny, an 11-foot Bing "scarecrow" designed to discourage drivers from plowing through street fairs. Still, Dewan hardly seems annoyed by Microsoft's new venture. "Being Bing's daddy, I'll certainly be following the story," he writes in an e-mail. "It's a good name after all, isn't it." Good for you, Microsoft!
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