One Word began as an Instagram experiment with this post in September 2020. The first email went out in November 2020 to 14 subscribers! Its audience has grown since then – and I am just floored and thrilled that you’re along for this adventure with me. Thank you deeply.

In honor of more than a year of One Word together, I figured we’re past due for a fun one – and Bluetooth fits that category perfectly. Its story is so good – you really can’t make this stuff up. 

So fill up your drinking horn of mead!

Because we’re about to learn how the name of a thousand year-old Viking king ended up on every single one of our phones.

In the late 90s, as engineers from Intel, Ericsson, and IBM were working on the short-range radio technology that we’d one day find indispensable, these were the proposed names floating around for it:
Radiowire, Biz-RF, MC-Link, Low Power RF, PAN (Personal Area Network)

So, yeah. Less-than-scintillating stuff. And predictably, each was rejected by the legal team for being too generic.

But, at some point during their downtime- some say it was a conversation at a pub, others say a Swedish collaborator told the story at lunch – the engineering team learns about the story of Danish King Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson (c. 958-986).

Ol’ King Harald was called Bluetooth (Bl├ątand in Norse) because, well,
he had a dead tooth that looked blue and dark.

As History writes it, King Harald “unites” all the tribes of Denmark – and then Norway – furthering conversion from the Norse Gods to Christianity.

Harald Bluetooth’s lore is that he was gifted at words – and had an uncanny talent for bringing people together in non-violent negotiations.

He erects a big self-praising monument – The Jelling Stone – that many call the ‘birth certificate of Denmark” and also boasts the oldest image of Christ in Scandinavia.

However he hears it, Harald’s story sticks with Intel engineer Jim Kardach – and Bluetooth becomes the internal name the engineering team uses to refer to the developing tech.

Kardach even made a PowerPoint image of Harald that read: ‘Harald united Denmark and Norway’ and ‘Harald thinks that mobile PCs and cellular phones should seamlessly communicate.’

Today, 92% of the global population recognizes the Bluetooth brand. 
But Bluetooth was never meant to be its official name.

The technical terms were too commonplace even for search engines of the time. And marketing didn’t come up with anything better … so Bluetooth just stuck. 

But, friends, that’s not even the best part! The logo is actually King Bluetooth’s initials.

Two runes combined in this way is called a “binding” or “bind” rune – even the logo itself brings two things together.

I suppose sometimes we name things. And sometimes they name themselves. 

That’s the word, nerd.