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AMD announced today that they will unveil a new class of budget processors in the second half of the year called AMD Sempron ™ .


What the hell kind of name is that?

When I first looked at the name, I thought it was “Semiporn.”

What’s A Semp?

Time to pull out the heavy ammo to figure this one out. A few months ago, I got the Oxford English Dictionary. It is to dictionaries what nuclear weapons are to war. The paper version consists of twenty thick volumes. If a word exists, it’s going to be in there.

Sure enough, there really is such a word:

semp, n. (sEmp) [Origin uncertain; perh. repr. shortened pronunc. of an alternative name Louis d’or simple.]

A name in Trinidad for a variety of tanager, Euphonia (formerly Tanagra) violacea, which is sometimes kept as a songbird.

The PR release talks a bit about people using computers to download and play music, so presumably, that’s what it is supposed to remind you of.

Now maybe everybody in Trinidad (which is the only place where you can find a semp, though one was once seen in Tobago) can make that connection, but outside of bird-watchers, nobody else in the world will.

Looking Deeper

I am nothing if not thorough. I checked the word “semper.” It’s a synonym for always, used in such everyday words as “semperannual,” “sempergreen,” and “semperidentical.”

P.S. I put the last sentence in bold because many people who wrote me about this somehow managed to miss this part, then proceded to tell me “Semper means always.” A few said it more like, “You dope, highly intelligent people like me know that semper means always.”

Well, gee, so had I. 🙂

Some did note that the U.S. Marine Corps motto is “Semper Fidelis,” which means in Latin “always faithful.” That motto is probably obvious to more people than “semp,” but if that were the intention, “Semperon” would have been a better choice.

There’s a word called “sempitan.” It means a Malaysian blow-gun.

“Semple” is a word named after somebody which refers to a rabies vaccine. (I think the people who approved this name could use a dose or two.)

There’s a number of other words with “semper” in them, but half of them refer to house leeks.

Real English

Hmmm, what English words that English-speaking people actually know does “Sempron” sound like?

Well, actually none very close to the word, for the simple reason that no commonly-used or known word begins with “semp.”

Only one word came to my mind after a moment: Septic.

What does “septic” mean? Per the OED:

septic, a. and n. Putrefactive, putrefying; of disease, caused by the absorption of the products of putrefaction.

BTW, putrefaction means the act of rotting.

In America, the term people really use is “septic tank.” This is what people use when there are no sewers around. It’s a big tank into which you flush your . . . excretions where it accumulates/rots for a year or more until it fills up and you have to hire someone who obviously can’t find anything better to do to clean it out.

Wow, what upbeat, positive connotations! I think better of the product already!

If you ignore the “s” and focus on the “emp,” you get two words with slightly more positive connotations, though when you start off literally in a (substitute for a) sewer, it’s hard to go anywhere but up.

Those words are “hemp” and “temp.”

“Hemp” is a plant that today is most commonly known as the plant certain strains of which are commonly known as marijuana. For sure, this has very positive connotations for some, but when the corporate world uses the term “buzzwords,” they don’t mean that kind of buzz. There’s a subtle implication that this processor is only for people who are stoned, again, not a big plus in the corporate world. Unless AMD plans on targeting Rasta-men and like-minded individuals, this isn’t the best word association in the world.

Hmmm, “Sempron” sound a little like sinsemilla, too. Is AMD going to hire Cheech and Chong as spokespersons? (Chong should be getting out of prison soon).

“Temp” is just an abbreviation for “temporary.” Not exactly what the average Joe Sixpack wants to hear when making a big-ticket purchase like a computer.

Moving a bit further away, “semp” sounds a bit like another commonly but hardly positively used word: Wimp. Now that’s a word people want to buy into!

Defeating The Purpose of the Whole Exercise…

Defeating The Purpose of the Whole Exercise

The point of a no-name name is to use syllables that have instantly recognizable, positive connotations for the average person interested in buying it.

For instance, “Athlon” brings to mind “athlete” or “athletics.” “Duron” makes people think “durable.” “Celeron” brings “celestial” to mind. If you’re going to do something like this, this is the effect you want.

“Sempron” doesn’t do this. Sempron doesn’t bring anything to mind, and believe me, if people have to go to a serious dictionary to make a word association, you’ve failed.

Much worse, if my reaction is at all typical, do you really want people having vague feelings of “rotting feces” or “drugged out” or “not permanent” or “wimpy” when they consider your product? I hope not.

Fitting the Name to the Processor

Although AMD doesn’t say so, it looks like this is supposed to be the official name of the “Paris” processor.

The “Paris” is essentially a Hammer with only 256K of cache and x86-64 disabled.

That’s castrated to the point of obscenity. Maybe “Semiporn” is a good name for it after all. It certainly qualifies as a “semi” CPU.

Come to think of it, if Parises end up being rejects from the upper lines, “rotting feces” might not be completely out of bounds.

Removing x86-64 from the product line just when Intel plans to include it in Celerons seems pretty “drugged out” to me.

If this is supposed to be a processor placeholder until you can afford a real full-fledged Hammer, connotations of “temporary” may be quite fitting.

Last but not least, after the gelding it takes, “wimpy” may turn out to be all too true.

Maybe this is a good name, after all, or at least an accurate one. 🙂


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