The article cited as proof, and I shall never forget this, a man called Aloysius Handbag, who was apparently a bad egg. Despite having every advantage in life, his name proved to be a serious handicap, and he ended up in Dubai, or on the gallows, or somewhere equally horrid.
This set to me to wondering: When you've named your new company, does it grow into its name? Arch Capital springs to mind. I had assumed it was named to describe its function as bridge between capital markets and reinsurance; or insurance and reinsurance; or Greenwich, Conn., and Bermuda. It turns out, when its founders breathed life into it, they looked out of their office windows and saw a sign saying Arch Street.
One has to be careful, though. The word "arch" also means smug, or superior.
Aeolus, the Greek god of the wind, is pronounced "Ee-oh-lis," with the stress on the second syllable. Apparently, Aeolus Ltd., which operates the reinsurance carrier Aeolus Re, pronounces it "Ee-lis," probably because that sounds more like Elvis, the god of pelvic gyration. I'd ask them, but they don't return e-mails, not even to say: "Please do not send us any more e-mails."
What's up with that, by the way? I find that an increasing number of people simply don't reply to e-mails, which is the height of rudeness, the epistolary equivalent of wearing a hat indoors.
I think I know why people don't reply. They're afraid I'll say, "The company declined to comment," which would make them look cheesy, even though it's true. The truth, my friends, shall set you cheese. So when this happens, I now write: "The company is staffed by prigs," which I find makes better reading.
Names have so many associations. Axis Capital, for example, has a good name. It was formed not long before President George W. Bush's denunciation of the Axis of Evil. I'll tell you this: If the Axis of Evil were even remotely as good at what it does as is Axis Capital, we'd all be living in the dark like the people in North Korea.
Allied World Assurance Co. was formed at the same time as Axis, after Sept. 11. Allied World goes by the acronym AWAC, which its founders cannot have failed to notice is a lot like AWACS, the Airborne Warning and Control System. Luckily, AWAC, another superbly managed organization, doesn't go in for electronic snooping.
Other names have less military associations. Ariel was the sprite in The Tempest. Ironshore is a place in the Caymans. Some names are just utilitarian. Berkshire Hathaway originally had this advertising cut line: "They went Hathaway." (If they didn't, they should have.) Almost alone among biggies, the Catlin Group is named for founder Stephen Catlin.
Munich Re and Swiss Re are geographically descriptive. The associations intended by the likes of Flagstone, Endurance and Platinum are obvious enough. Everest Re, presumably, wants to amass the biggest pile of cash in the world.
So now you have something to think about when the next wave of hurricanes prompts the formation of the Class of 2007 or 2008. Oh, and if you should decide to form Aloysius Handbag Re, please reply when I e-mail you.
ROGER CROMBIE is a Bermuda-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®.
October 15, 2007
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