Oh boy, I love this question.
I love this name.
There are so many ways to get to the reason why this name was picked as it was and since I have your rapt attention, I will take the most enjoyable route (for me at least).
We brainstormed for a company name for months. They all sounded dorky; some were so dorky they made me laugh until I cried. Most were so boring I couldn’t remember them even though I thought of them. So, with nearly every possible name crossed off the list, we were at a dead-end.
We knew how to build the hardware, but we could not have a company if we could not even name it.
One afternoon, we were sitting around and someone was cracking jokes, I forget who. Vincent and Kory, both fluent Latin speakers, were brainstorming for names in Latin, “Statuere, that means ‘to stand’ in Latin. That could work…”
This was so much harder than building hardware to run Ubuntu.
I brought up the fact that the name needed to translate well into all languages. Vincent asked, “Which languages? Which countries?” As if I could name all the countries I wanted to branch out into!
So, since I speak French and am completely enthralled with the way the French are fostering Linux adoption, I said in my best French-girl-speaking-English accent, “All za countries ma darling.”
He replied with something like, “And za reason for that would be…?”
At that moment, we realized in a sort of group ah-ha that “ZaReason” sounded so much like “Zary Zen” a character created by one of our team members, Kory, in various games he played. We loved Zary Zen. We adored Zary Zen. The name evoked happy, playful memories for us personally.
The name became official a few seconds later when Earl commented, “Hey, ZA is the country code for South Africa. Ubuntu. Shuttleworth. South Africa. Yeah.”
I commented, “And ‘reason’ translates well in all European languages that I can think of off the top of my head.”
My youngest, my daughter, my much-adored little LinuxChix piped up, “ZaReason! ZaReason! I love you!”
I was sold.
Everyone else was convinced when they googled the name and gasped audibly at the purity of it. There wasn’t a single hit for ZaReason. We had not even dared to hope for such good luck.
Hopefully the sound of the name is fun for you too. I take great pleasure in seeing people pronounce it, play with it, and let it roll off their tongue like in the playful song “Bulbous Bouffant”. The name is memorable and has endless potential for good humor.
My favorite company motto so far: “Za reason for za open source is za freedom!”