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Joshua Benton, "If other media companies thought about brand equity the way Elon Musk thinks about Twitter’s (er, X’s)", Nieman Labs 7/24/2023:

In the spirit of Tronc, Elon Musk has decided to throw away more than a decade of brand equity by changing the name of Twitter to…the letter X. Imagine if more media executives followed his lead.

Benton offers several analogies, of which the first one is (in my opinion) the best:

NEW YORK, July 24, 2023 — The New York Times Company (NYSE: NYT) is proud to announce the new brand identity of its flagship news product: -.

The new glyph-driven name, to be pronounced “hyphen” or “The News Organization Formerly Known As The New York Times,” connects the company to its rich, 172-year-long history — in particular, the period from 1851 to 1896 in which it displayed its name as “The New-York Times.”

It's true — and I never noticed that the city name itself (at least in that newspaper) used to be "New-York":

A bit of poking around in the archives shows that they were (somewhat) consistent about this, since the practice extended further, e.g. to "Eighth-avenue" and "Lincoln-place" — though for some reason not to "Prospect Park":

Some of Benton's discussion:

“What’s most exciting about – is that it literally puts our news organization right in the middle of all sorts of discussions,” said – executive editor Joseph F. Kahn. “Are you worried about the struggles of white-collar workers? Far-right movements? Fast-improving AI technology? The Barbenheimer box-office phenomenon? No matter what, we at – are right there in the thick of it.”

While executives admit considering the longer en dash (–) or em dash (—), Mr. Kahn cited brevity as a core principle of journalism. He called the longer options “verbose and border-line prolix. See, there we are again — ‘border-line’! I’m telling you, this is just what our little-known news outlet needs to achieve some sort of wider recognition.”

And if the "Tronc" reference went over your head (as it did mine), here's a clue:

Nick Statt, "Tronc to change name back to Tribune Publishing after years of ridicule", The Verge 6/18/2018.

For a bit more on hyphenation culture, see "Most-hyphen-admired-space-men", 1/2/2020.

Also, for the NYT's (or -'s) take on the situation, see "From Twitter to X: Elon Musk Begins Erasing an Iconic Internet Brand", NYT 7/24/2023.


  1. AntC said,

    July 25, 2023 @ 7:04 am

    I hope Musk has not cut Twitter's Legal Department as harshly as most staff: I foresee many trademark disputes that X-whatever or whatever-X is already a recognised brand: X-Box, X-rated, X-ray, …

    I'm not convinced Musk's retaining the branding from pre-PayPal days is going to be enough to save him. (Full disclosure: IANAL)

    What are the X-messages going to be called, now that they're not 'tweets'? 'Xpletives'? 'Xpostulations'? 'Xasperating'? 'NarXissisms'?

  2. Cervantes said,

    July 25, 2023 @ 7:08 am


  3. Mark Liberman said,

    July 25, 2023 @ 7:16 am

    @AntC — I'm not sure this is true, but:

    There's also Xfinity. And 34079 other hits from the USPTO's Trademark Electronic Search System

  4. Andreas Johansson said,

    July 25, 2023 @ 7:24 am


    Apparently, what used to be known as "tweets" is now supposed to be called "x's".

  5. Peter Taylor said,

    July 25, 2023 @ 7:51 am

    In the tech world, the name X is already in use for a window system. There are religious wars over X vs Wayland, so the potential for confusion is ample.

  6. Roscoe said,

    July 25, 2023 @ 7:56 am

    Joshua Benton is American, as is NiemanLab.

    So…why "er, X's" and not "uh, X's"?

  7. Peter CS said,

    July 25, 2023 @ 8:10 am

    The New York Times may not accept your suggestion, but the UK daily The Independent spun off a condensed version called (the) i. The parent has since folded as a printed paper – although it still maintains a website existence, but i is still on the go ( with just a big red i as its logo.

  8. Bruce said,

    July 25, 2023 @ 9:43 am

    I'm in North America and use "er" and "uh" for two different sounds.

    I lived in the UK for many years and I was flabbergasted when I realized what sound "erm" was supposed to represent.

  9. J.W. Brewer said,

    July 25, 2023 @ 9:54 am

    The New-York Historical Society, founded 1804, preserves its vintage hyphen and carries it over to the initialism N-YHS. Their apologia:

  10. Daniel Barkalow said,

    July 25, 2023 @ 10:16 am

    In my (US) usage, "uh" is actual hesitation, whereas "er" (pronounced rhoticly) is said for effect. I think this comes from seeing "er" in reported speech in British writing (but not hearing it in live audio), and taking it as evidence that British people sometimes say the rhotic thing when it would have to be included in a quotation and make the usual hesitation sound otherwise. Then American kids adopt the perceived British usage from literature and spread it as actual American usage.

  11. Seth said,

    July 25, 2023 @ 10:33 am

    @ Peter Taylor – I'm not a lawyer, much less a trademark lawyer, but just in general I don't see much likelihood of confusion between "X" the windows system and The Site Formerly Known As Twitter.

    But there's many "X" trademarks in existence, and I wouldn't want to be in the legal department now of X (TSFKAT). Some of those active trademarks may have owners with at least an arguable claim that X (TSFKAT) is infringing. And Musk is going to lose any PR battles now because many journalists seem to hate him with a passion.

  12. Gregory Kusnick said,

    July 25, 2023 @ 10:37 am

    "Imagine if more media executives followed his lead."

    Like for instance the executives at Warner Bros, who apparently thought that HBO Max would be a more valuable brand if they jettisoned the HBO part of the name. (And they still haven't worked the bugs out of their new Max-branded Roku app.)

  13. Chips Mackinolty said,

    July 25, 2023 @ 9:03 pm

    Then again, "X marks the spot": Musk has always been something of a pirate

  14. Philip Anderson said,

    July 26, 2023 @ 2:08 am

    Don’t forget that Musk already owns SpaceX, in a different sphere, so I can see some logic. Tesla -> Xcar?

  15. Craig Eliason said,

    July 26, 2023 @ 7:35 am

    “New-York,” "Eighth-avenue," and "Lincoln-place" are hyphenated because they’re used as adjectives there, unlike "Prospect Park.” Akin to “eighteenth-century art” vs. “art of the eighteenth century.”

  16. bks said,

    July 26, 2023 @ 7:47 am

    Tesla -> Xcar -> Xcargo?

  17. Chas Belov said,

    July 27, 2023 @ 6:11 pm

    I read that Japan wouldn't approve it because they have a rock group named X (who I actually have listened to).

    ¿So "er" wasn't actually a word? I've been using it for so long I don't remember how or when I started.

  18. kmh said,

    July 28, 2023 @ 4:58 pm

    Another reference for the history of a hyphenated "New-York":

    Also, in Article I, Section 2 of the US Constitution, "Rhode-Island" and "New-York" are hyphenated, but New Hampshire and New Jersey are not:
    "The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three."

  19. Yerushalmi said,

    July 30, 2023 @ 3:56 am

    The first time I logged in to Twitter and saw the X, I genuinely thought it was some fancy custom version of "failed to load the bird icon".

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