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Why Midori?

Midori cocktails (Picture by Sam Smith/Flickr)
Midori is a common cocktail ingredient (Picture by Sam Smith)
Microsoft's new operating system research project is mysteriously named "Midori". But why?

Coining the codenames for consumer tech products can be a tricky business.

If your project was designing a new way of coupling articulated lorries or maximising efficiency in polymer production, you wouldn't have to worry too much about the working title.

But if you are Microsoft or Apple or one of the other consumer electronics giants, your most embryonic of projects can garner significant worldwide coverage.

And when it's being discussed in forums and blogs, a massive potential source of free advertising, even the codename must sit right with the product. Normally the names are unusual enough to stand out, without ever risking any negative connotations.

CHOICE CODENAMES
Hailstorm
Indigo
Pinball
Frosting - Another word for icing
Godot - Delayed project

Thus it seems slightly strange that Microsoft has chosen the word "midori" for its latest research project. It's an effort to create an internet-based system for a world where people use more than one machine to access applications, and it's already being talked about.

Japanese word

Some people's first thought will be of Midori, the super-sweet green Japanese melon-flavoured cocktail liqueur that claims to be "refreshingly different". It's the key ingredient in the Green Alien, the Japanese Slipper, and the extraordinarily named Giraffe Snot (blue curacao, Midori, cranberry juice, passionfruit pulp).

Midori is also the Japanese word for green, so you might imagine the designers having an environmental moment. But in Japanese, midori does not have quite the same idiomatic sense as the way English-speakers use "green". There is a green day, midorinohi, on 29 April, Emperor Hirohito's birthday, but it celebrates "greenery" and the planting of trees more than wider environmental concerns.

Midori Matsuo
There is a fashion designer called Midori

Midori crops up in Japanese placenames, and it is a relatively common girl's name. Here's where it becomes connotation-laden. Midori is a Japanese violinist, but another Midori is a "prominent human sexuality writer" and a third Midori is a porn actress. There is a Midori Snyder who writes fantasy novels, and a Midori Matsuo who is an aspirant underwear designer.

And most bizarrely, the codename midori has already apparently been used in the technology field with a version of Linux and a WebKit browser.

It's all a big departure for a company that usually just sticks with placenames.

"Many of the Microsoft ones are named after mountains," says Dan Grabham, computing editor of techradar.com. Chip firm Intel also goes for American placenames, he notes.

"If they choose a placename it is quite easy to remember, if it was just a number that might get confused. I haven't come across where Midori is from. I would have guessed it was the Japanese connection."

Microsoft has had a particular fascination for the ski resort of Whistler Blackcomb where it held "design retreats".

The project codenamed Whistler became Windows XP, Longhorn, named after a bar in Whistler, became Windows Vista, and the next generation of Windows was codenamed Blackcomb, although that changed to Vienna and more recently to Windows 7.

Other Whistler-related codenames include Bobcat, Freestyle, Harmony, Cougar, Symphony, Emerald, and Springboard, variously the names, of ski lifts, ski runs and "alpine bowls".

The codenames can give a hint of the ethos of the people behind the product.

Each version of the Ubuntu Linux system carries, as well as a number, a name. So far they have included Breezy Badger, Feisty Fawn and Gutsy Gibbon.

But exactly what Midori is really saying remains unclear.


Send us your comments using the form below.

In Zimbabwe "midori/midhori" is Shona plural for a doll - a child's toy in the shape of a person or baby. This makes it a very funny name here.
Martin M, Harare, Zimbabwe

Having spent the recent winter season in Whistler, I can only wonder if the Microsoft's naming guru's thought of the "negative connotations" that the name "Longhorn" would lend to their project. A Sunday night spent at the bar of the same name was the locals' byword for the kind of drunken skiing holiday debauchery that takes place there.
James Ranger, London, UK

Midori sounds very much similar to the Indian word "madari" which means a monkey trainer.
Sam Albuquerque, London

Could be that the developers are Anime Otakus and love a character named Midori.
Alex, Toronto

It's obvious. Midori is a pun on "door" as Microsoft look to replace Windows with Doors.
Dan Davies, London, UK

Don't forget about the excellent TV show "Ninja Warrior" that is filmed on Japan's Mount Midoriyama. That ties in the mountain link you've noted with Microsoft names, and the show is quite popular with the G4TV watching internet generation.
Ninja Warrior, Midoriyama, Japan

Maybe the choice of the name of an alcoholic drink comes from the normal desire to blot out the pain of the first few weeks of a new Microsoft operating system.
Mike, Exeter, UK

It could be worse - there's a similar liqueur to Midori, but made from bananas called Pisang Ambon.
Eddie, Edinburgh

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