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We would like to name our e-commerce startup Mycoon. Everybody in the team is happy with Mycoon (mainly because it resembles to tycoon and we just love racoons) but I've just found it out on urban dictionary that coon can be insulting. We are based in Europe but we expect customers from the US as well. Could Mycoon insult anyone or people would associate to the racoon as we intend (with a racoon in our logo)?

  • I think that this is difficult to answer from a language perspective. Certainly some folks will not find it offensive and some will. In the Southern US, I think it would be likely to be understood as the slur, but I don't have any objective evidence to support my opinion. You may want to try a name that works with the beginning of raccoon instead of the end. A better link for those of us at work that describes the etymology of the slur is en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raccoon#Etymology – ColleenV Jan 2 '15 at 16:53
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    Just as coment as I'm not native AE: I like the name and I suppose it's "different enough" from coon, especially with the logo. – Stephie Jan 2 '15 at 16:56
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Potentially, since "coon" is a (rather outdated) racial slur for African Americans. It could evoke "my n****r" or the literal possession of a "coon" which of course would be a very bad association to make.

That said, I rather doubt most people under the age of 35 would bat an eye or consider it anything other than a raccoon reference. In keeping w/a startup approach, evaluate the name w/your target audience to determine their impressions & adjust as needed.

If you were a U.S. company based in a southern U.S. state I would advise against it. A European startup? If there are variations on using this term in the UK or elsewhere around Europe, I'm not familiar with them. There are always plenty of other rude words people invent to disparage one another. It will likely be clear that this isn't your intent. Of course, there's always a chance of making somebody angry on the internet no matter what you do. At some point negative words from the past deserve/need to have their meaning readjusted - you'll have to decide how much of a risk you'll be taking with the name.

  • I think whether anyone younger would understand it as a slur would depend on who their parents are. Also, it can be applied to any dark skinned minority depending on what you precede coon with based on what I've overhead. In my opinion, this is more of a business risk question than a language question because there's no question that it's still in use in some areas as a slur. – ColleenV Jan 2 '15 at 17:11
  • True - I suppose there's a distinction between "understanding" it as a slur, and a willingness to use/interpret it as such. If there are variations in the UK or elsewhere I'm not familiar with them. Will edit a bit. – mc01 Jan 2 '15 at 17:14
  • I think it is uniquely American based on the etymology. I don't associate with folks that use racial slurs, and I work a company that doesn't tolerate any type of disparagement in the workplace, so I really can't say how widespread the usage is, but I have overheard it being used more than once, so I don't think it's completely archaic at least in the rural South. – ColleenV Jan 2 '15 at 17:30
  • Everyone in the US knows what "coon" means as a racial slur, even if they're not racist creeps. And ColleenV, I have lived many years in the South and Northeast, and that term is widely and actively used. Adding "my" in front of it raises some historical concerns, although I think people would consider the name an unfortunate choice rather than an intentional slur. That's all I can tell you as a native US English speaker. – oaker Jan 5 '15 at 1:38

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